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NZ continues to progress bottom trawling at the UN

24 November 2006

NZ continues to progress bottom trawling at the UN

New Zealand is heartened by a significant advance in international efforts to regulate high seas bottom trawling at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The outcome from this year’s negotiations is not as specific and sweeping as the measures that we and other like Australia had proposed. But it is a major step forward from where we have been.

Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton said New Zealand, along with other nations had been working hard for a strong outcome on bottom trawling. We had sought a comprehensive suite of measures to cover all high seas areas.

Specifically, New Zealand had advocated for the adoption of:

 Effective measures to control bottom trawling in those areas of the high seas already being managed by a regional fisheries management organisation;
 Effective interim measures to be adopted in those areas such as the high seas of the South Pacific where an RFMO is under negotiation;
 An immediate interim prohibition on bottom trawling in unregulated high seas areas.

The measures agreed to in New York over night reflect the first two of the New Zealand negotiating objectives. The opposition of a number of fishing states prevented the adoption of an outright prohibition on bottom trawling in unregulated high seas areas. However, the pressure exerted by New Zealand and others led to a compromise under which bottom trawling in unregulated high seas areas must either be subject to effective measures to prevent damage to vulnerable marine ecosystems or it must stop.

Mr Anderton said: “The measures give strong political guidance for taking action to manage the impacts of bottom trawling and to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems.”

The outcome of the UN process also includes a package of measures which will deliver benefits to the marine environment, including measures to promote responsible fishing practices, and to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said: “States have worked hard together, and the consensus to be put to the United Nations General Assembly for adoption is a package of measures which reflect the collective view of the international community comprising both fishing and non-fishing States” Mr Peters said

“The United Nations had made it clear that controls on the adverse impacts of bottom trawling were urgently needed, and that countries must accelerate efforts to get them in place,” Mr Peters said.

Minister of Conservation Chris Carter said that while the measures do not go as far as we had wanted in terms of achieving a prohibition on bottom trawling in unregulated high seas areas, the consensus outcome was still a positive step towards minimising the effects of bottom-trawling in these areas.

All Ministers agreed that New Zealand will continue working with other responsible fishing nations like Australia and Pacific Island states to develop comprehensive proposals to regulate bottom trawling in the South Pacific. These will be put to the next meeting of parties in Chile, next year.

New Zealand sees regional organisations as presenting the best opportunity to manage bottom trawling and deliver real environmental benefits to our most vulnerable ecosystems.

Background Information: United Nations General Assembly & Bottom Trawling

- Negotiations on the 61st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA61) sustainable fisheries resolution ended on 23 November 2007. Bottom trawling was a key issue.

- While UNGA resolutions are not legally binding, they carry significant moral force. They are generally agreed by consensus.

- The overall New Zealand objective at UNGA61 was to reach agreement on an outcome that will improve the degree of protection for marine biodiversity and vulnerable marine ecosystems. New Zealand took a leadership role at UNGA61, working closely with other delegations, in particular Australia and Pacific Island Countries, to advocate our preferred outcome.

- To achieve a consensus outcome, some compromise was necessary.

- Key outcomes on bottom trawling at UNGA61:

i. In high seas unmanaged areas : - States should either: adopt unilateral precautionary measures to ensure that bottom trawling does not result in significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems; or cease to authorise their fishing vessels. States are to make measures publicly available;

ii. In areas covered by RFMOs: Precautionary measures to be implemented by 31 December 2008 to ensure that bottom trawling does not result in significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, including area closures. Measures are to be made publicly available;

iii. In areas covered by RFMOs under negotiation: Interim measures on bottom trawling to be implemented by 31 December 2007 and to make these publicly available ;

iv. All actions to be reviewed at UNGA64 (i.e. in 3 years)

- In the South Pacific Ocean, where most New Zealand bottom trawling occurs, New Zealand will continue working with other nations like Australia and Pacific Island nations to develop comprehensive proposals to regulate bottom trawling. We would expect measures to be adopted and implemented by states at the next South Pacific RFMO consultation in May 2007.

- Bottom trawling is a widely used fishing method employed within States’ EEZs and in the high seas by many fishing nations including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan, Iceland, Russia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Portugal and Spain. New Zealand currently has 24 flagged vessels capable and permitted to undertake high seas bottom trawling. The total value of New Zealand high seas bottom trawl catch is estimated to be $15 million per annum.


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