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Intl. Experts Urge Action to Protect the Deep Sea

Media Release, Queenstown, Friday 5 December 2003

International Experts Urge Action to Protect the Deep Sea

Urgent action is needed stem the loss of deep sea-bed dwelling creatures and natural communities and the need for control of high seas fishing. These were consensus concerns at the close of an international meeting of experts on the deep sea in Queenstown today.

"We heard this week that there may be tens of thousands of undiscovered species in the deep sea" said Cath Wallace, Chair of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO "Bottom trawl fishing on deep-sea corals on seamounts can destroy these ecosystems and may drive species extinct before we even know they exist."

Many of the experts at the conference called for urgent action by both governments and international organisations under the Law of the Sea and other conventions and agreements.

"Escalating damage to deep sea creatures, especially from seabed trawling, was a consistent theme, with strong calls for measures to outlaw or control bottom-trawling," said Barry Weeber, Forest and Bird Senior Researcher. "Non-governmental organisations from both the Southern and Northern Hemisphere called for a moratorium on all deep sea bed trawling on the high seas."

Scientists, lawyers, academics, policy, government and non-governmental experts called for control of illegal, unauthorised and unreported fishing, especially on the High Seas of the Southern and Indian Oceans.

At least some in the fishing industry were frank that trawling was damaging and must be addressed urgently. Consumers were urged to avoid buying fish or seafood caught by destructive methods or from countries that catch, take or market products from illegal, unreported or unregulated fisheries.

"Most people agreed that urgent action was needed to stem the irreversible damage to the fisheries and biodiversity of the deep sea until an effective international high seas regime is in place" added Wallace. "Until this happens, we are calling on the New Zealand government to take a lead in negotiating a United Nations moratorium on bottom trawl fishing on the high seas".

Contact Barry Weeber, Senior Researcher, Forest and Bird 025-622-7369.


Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ Inc. P O Box 11-057, Wellington eco@reddfish.co.nz Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, P O Box 631 Wellington.


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