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Pacific leaders called on to protect deep sea life

Pacific leaders called on to protect deep sea life

Port Moresby, Wednesday, October 26, 2005 Greenpeace today urged leaders attending the Pacific Island Forum to send a strong message of concern and support for urgent interim measures being discussed at the UN level on high seas bottom trawling.

“Pacific Leaders have a unique opportunity to show leadership on oceans issues at the international level”, said Lagi Toribau, Pacific Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace. “Support for this initiative would once again demonstrate regional leadership for the protection of our oceans resources just as they did with driftnets.”

The call comes on the day Australian scientists wrote to the Australian Government expressing increasing concern over the impact of bottom trawl fishing on cold-water corals and other vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems. The scientists urged the government to take advantage of an historical opportunity to secure significant protection for the world’s deep-ocean ecosystems on the High Seas, and to show leadership to secure support for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

Seamounts are under-water mountains that rise 1,000 meters or higher from the seabed but do not break the ocean surface. They are home to a diverse and often endemic range of deep sea life, much of which remains unidentified. Seamounts are among the world’s greatest marine biological treasures and the Pacific is estimated to have between 30-50,000.

Seamounts are now the target of industrial fishing fleets. Many of these fleets having fished out the inshore waters are now moving further out into International waters and deep down, searching for new species to satisfy the growing global appetite for fish. To harvest the deep-sea fish a fishing method known as bottom trawling is used.

Bottom trawling is destructive of deep-sea habitats and species because of the heavy gear that is used. Multi-ton steel doors keep the net mouth open and steel rollers and chains are used to weight the net down. These are dragged ahead of the net across the sea floor crushing or scooping up everything in its path. Trawls can now be deployed in waters that are up to two kilometres(1.2 miles) deep. Because many species are unique to each seamount and bottom trawl fleets tend to target fish populations that concentrate around them, the extinction of countless known and unknown deep-sea species can be expected.

“The international scientific community has urged the United Nations put in place a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling to allow scientists the time to identify and assess deep sea biodiversity and until such time that an appropriate management and conservation regime is in place to protect the deep sea environment”, said Duncan Currie, Greenpeace adviser.

“There is already a strong and clear momentum for action by the international community and the Pacific can be an important part of this”, he said.

Greenpeace is urging Pacific Island Leaders to support the call for the UN to adopt and implement an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawl fishing until legally binding regimes for the effective conservation and management of deep sea fisheries and the protection of high seas biodiversity can be developed, implemented and enforced by the global community.

Lagi Toribau, Oceans Campaigner, and Duncan Currie, Advisor (in Port Moresby) on mobile: +675 683 3474 or office: +657 321 5954
Tiy Chung, Communications Officer (in Sydney) on mobile: +61 409 604 010

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