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Washed Up Dead Snapper Highlights Dangers Of Bottom Trawling

News of hundreds of dead snapper washing up on Auckland’s beaches last week highlights the urgent need to ban destructive fishing methods from the Hauraki Gulf, say members of the Hauraki Gulf Alliance, an environmental and recreational fisheries advocacy group.

On Thursday, social media videos revealed hundreds of snapper floating in the Gulf, with it later emerging they were most likely lost through gear failure and a commercial trawler’s net breaking or being cut.

The Hauraki Gulf Alliance says the incident is another example of why bottom trawling has to cease in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

“How can we call it a Marine Park and allow this type of industrial fishing to continue?” says Hauraki Gulf Alliance spokesperson Benn Winlove.

“The Hauraki Gulf is in serious decline, we’ve got starving fish, functionally extinct crayfish, and ecosystems that have been pummeled for a century by commercial trawling and dredging,” he says.

“The scale of the waste from the commercial trawlers is obscene. Whether it's from an incident like this or through the amount of non-target species they’re routinely discarding. Dumping is not an infrequent occurrence. The only difference is that the public got to see it first hand on Thursday.”

Greenpeace Aotearoa campaigner Ellie Hooper says the Marine Park cannot sustain fishing practices like this and the government needs to act.

“What we’re hearing from the new Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones are assertions that he will protect the commercial fishing industry over the environment,” she says.

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“The fact is, if we allow commercial trawling and dredging to continue in places like the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and other precious ocean environments around New Zealand, the industry will be the cause of its own undoing. There won’t be enough fish to catch, and jobs will be lost as a result.

“Delaying the transition away from destructive, non-selective methods like trawling is like the commercial fishing industry shooting their future selves in the foot.”

This comes at a time when Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones has publicly questioned the need for cameras on commercial fishing vessels, asking what enhanced roles cameras on boats can play and who will pay for them.

Benn Winlove from LeagSea says: “It seems clear from the wasteful incident last week that at the very least the commercial fishing industry owe the New Zealand public some transparency. If they have nothing to hide then the cameras will prove this.”

By the end of 2023, thousands of New Zealanders had made submissions on the proposal to restrict trawling in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, with many calling for a total ban on bottom contact fishing. A decision from government has yet to be released.

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