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Greenpeace concerned by bottom trawling

Fri, 24 Sep 2004

Auckland: Greenpeace is today concerned that the New Zealand Government has been co-opted by the fishing industry into a weak "case by case" approach to deal with the greatest threat to life in the deep sea: bottom trawling.

This is despite calls by scientists that the only measure that will ensure the protection of the deep sea - the biggest pool of undiscovered marine life on the planet - is an immediate moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters.

"The Minister of Fisheries has agreed that bottom trawling causes "considerable damage" to the sea floor and the life it supports," said Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Carmen Gravatt. "If New Zealand is to really take a leadership role on this issue our Government would be leading the way against the indiscriminate destruction of bottom trawling as they have previously against deadly driftnets."

"Our Government seems to have swallowed the fishing industry's self-satisfying ideas hook, line and sinker by stating that regional agreements will save deep sea life. This is flawed because it takes a long time to identify the individual bits of the high seas to protect. It takes many more years to negotiate agreements to look after those areas. In the meantime, during negotiations, the plunder continues unhindered."

"The unfortunate fact is we don't have the luxury of time. We need an immediate global solution to the threat of bottom trawling to deep sea life. The only real option is a UN moratorium in international waters."

Environmental groups nationally and globally recognise our oceans are in crisis from overfishing and destructive fishing techniques. Each day extraordinary damage is being inflicted on the unknown worlds of the deep sea by bottom trawling.

Over 1000 scientists from 69 countries, including New Zealand, called for a United Nations moratorium in an urgent statement earlier this year. Greenpeace and an international coalition of environmental groups are supporting this call.

Bottom trawl nets are often weighted across the bottom with heavy steel or rubber rollers that indiscriminately smash and crush corals; they swallow everything in their path. It's like clearfelling an entire forest in order to catch one species of bird. These sensitive areas need a "time out" so we can work out the best way to protect them.

"A moratorium is temporary by definition. Once we know how to look after the deep sea, fishing could possibly resume if it has been proved to be sustainable for both the fish targeted and the rest of the deep sea life," concluded Ms Gravatt.

More information on BOTTOM TRAWLING is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/deepsea_

ENDS

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