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New Zealand Fishers Call For Fact-based Decisions On Trawling

New Zealand deepwater fishing representatives say a petition by eNGOs delivered to Parliament’s environment select committee today calling for a ban on trawling seamounts is misinformed.

Deepwater Group CEO George Clement says: “It’s frustrating hearing certain groups espousing mis-truths about bottom trawling and undermining the reality.

New Zealand’s deepwater industry is committed to ocean conservation and to ecosystem management. Our main deepwater fisheries have been independently assessed as being amongst the top five percent of the best managed fisheries in the world, something that all in New Zealand can be proud of.

“Our deepwater trawl fisheries are closely monitored by Government authorities with 48 percent observer coverage. Industry supports this and the effective measures in place to ensure protected species are thriving.

“The public might not know that only 1.1 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), covering all of our oceans from 12 to 200 miles offshore, is contacted by bottom trawling each year, mostly fishing the same grounds that have been trawled for decades.”

Clement says a petition by eNGOs calling for the Government to ban trawling on seamounts has not focused on the facts.

“The anti-trawling proponents are not acknowledging the following facts.

  • closed areas protect 1.2 million square kilometres of seabed from bottom trawling – an area 4.5 times larger than New Zealand’s land mass.
  • these closures include 71 seamounts (50 percent of true seamounts) and 93 smaller hills and knolls.
  • of the 142 true seamounts within our EEZ, 127 (89 percent) have never been trawled.
  • trawling effort has been progressively reduced – since 2005 the number of deepwater trawlers has been reduced by 47 percent (from 60 to 32); and the number of deepwater trawl tows to harvest the same sustainable catch has been reduced by 38%.
  • the vast majority of bottom trawling is on proven fishing grounds, where trawl nets only contact sand and mud.”

“What we can agree upon is that not enough is known about the seabed biodiversity within the 92 percent of our EEZ that has never been fished.

“When Benthic Protection Areas (BPAs) banning bottom trawling in representative areas across 30 percent of the EEZ were set up in 2007 at industry’s request, Government undertook to conduct that baseline scientific work.

“We invite environmental groups to join the deepwater quota holders to encourage Government to carry out this essential work, as it has promised to do.”

Sealord CEO Doug Paulin says: “New Zealand depends upon food production to survive. All forms of food production necessitate some form of environmental change. It is always a question of balance, ensuring that we conserve our natural heritage while still providing security of food and jobs for New Zealanders. Fishing, just like farming on land, does have an impact on the environment and every effort is being made to minimise these impacts to ensure they do not become adverse effects on our ecosystems,” he says.

“It is absolutely possible to manage in tandem, bottom trawling and conservation of our native fauna on the seabed in our EEZ, as indeed we manage conservation and food production on land,” Paulin adds.

“New Zealand fishers are always looking to improve the way we work and are constantly exploring new technologies that will further reduce our footprint.”

“We are working closely with scientists, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Department of Conservation to ensure that we continue to balance conservation and utilisation needs from our oceans for the greater benefit of New Zealand,” he says.

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