"The cod has gone, the rest is next"
Greenpeace exposes fisheries failures in the Northwest Atlantic
Halifax, Canada, 25 July 2005 - The Greenpeace ship Esperanza arrived in the Northwest Atlantic today to document the indiscriminate devastation of deep-sea marine ecosystems caused by the most destructive of all industrial fishing methods - high seas bottom trawling.
60% of all high seas bottom trawling occurs in the Northwest Atlantic by only a few countries (1). The vessels drag weighted nets along the sea floor. Huge chains or rollers attached to the front of the nets destroy everything in their path, including highly sensitive cold-water coral and sponge forests. They also catch numerous other marine species, which are thrown overboard, dead or dying, as 'trash'.
"Even the fishing industry itself concedes that this is the most damaging of all fishing methods. These fleets bulldoze the ocean floor with their nets, killing everything in their path. Unless the UN adopts a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling now, much of our rich ocean life will be wiped out and more fisheries will reach the brink of collapse," said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner.
The destruction of deep-sea life in international waters off the east coast of Canada is especially troubling because, unlike most other international waters, there is a regulatory body in place to regulate high seas bottom trawling in that area. A Greenpeace report released today: The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization: A Case Study In How Regional Fisheries Management Organisations Regularly Fail To Manage Our Oceans shows, however, that the NAFO has failed to consider the impacts of industrial fishing on the marine ecosystem as a whole (2). In 2005, moratoria continue to be in place on four out of the six groundfish stocks that they manage, because they have been so overfished. (3)
"For 25 years, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management Organisation (NAFO) has failed to protect the marine environment in this area, leading to the destruction of some of the world's most productive fisheries - the most infamous example being the collapse of the northern cod fishery," said Bruce Cox, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada. (4)
"Without radical changes, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations such as NAFO will be unable to protect deep sea biodiversity and will continue to struggle to sustainably manage their fisheries," said Martin Willison of Dalhousie University.
Notes to Editors:
(1) The ships are from, among others, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Canada, and Russia.
(2) For a copy of the report visit: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/NAFO-Case-Study
(3) "The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation: a case study on how RFMOs regularly fail to manage our Oceans, "Greenpeace International, June 2005 at
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/NAFO-Case-Study, p 4.
(4) Abundant cod resources first attracted European fishers to the waters of the Northwest Atlantic hundreds of years ago. In the 1950s, this fishery became industrialised. By the late 1980s it had collapsed as a result of overfishing. A moratorium on cod fishing was established in 1992 and has yet to be lifted.
The MV Esperanza documentation follows a similar tour by the Rainbow Warrior in June in the international waters between Australia and New Zealand. Greenpeace exposed a New Zealand bottom trawler throwing a 500 year-old piece of coral overboard that it had ripped from the seabed while fishing, and hauled up in its nets.
For more details of the tour, and to follow the ship's diary, visit: http://weblog.greenpeace.org/deepsea.