Pacific Leaders Back Bottom Trawling Ban
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
31 July 2006
NEW YORK--The Presidents of the Republic of the Marshall Islands ("RMI"), the Federated States of Micronesia ("FSM"), and the Republic of Palau ("Palau") have called for a temporary moratorium on deep sea bottom trawling in the Pacific and pledged to pursue the issue before the Pacific Islands Forum and the United Nations when those organizations take up the issue in negotiations this Fall.
This call for an interim bottom trawling ban was issued in a Joint Communiqué of the Sixth Micronesian Presidents' Summit, held in Majuro, RMI, from 4-5 July 2006. President Kessai Note hosted Palau's President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. and FSM President Joseph J. Urusemal for the Summit.
"The Majuro Communiqué represents an historic commitment by our region to protect the ocean from creeping destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling that threaten our reefs and livelihoods," said Stuart Beck, Palau's Ambassador to the United Nations. "These small island nations represent more square miles of ocean per capita than any others in the world and we take seriously our social, economic, and cultural commitment to being trustees of the seas."
Bottom trawling involves scraping large, weighted nets across seamounts and the seabed to catch fish that rely on vulnerable coral reef habitat. In anticipation of this Fall's bottom trawling negotiations, the UN Secretary-General has recently reported on the impacts of bottom trawling and other destructive fishing practices to deep sea ecosystems. These reports observe that bottom trawlers "pick up these benthic communities as by-catch or otherwise reduce them to rubble"--damage that will take hundreds if not thousands of years to heal. Also noted in the Secretary General’s reports, bottom trawling is responsible for 95 percent of the total worldwide damage to seamount ecosystems.
The Majuro Communiqué in essence calls for extending to international waters the same level of protection that many responsible countries have insisted on for their own waters.
Palau, Tuvalu, FSM, and RMI are supporting a proposal at the United Nations to prohibit unregulated bottom trawling in international waters until effective conservation and management measures are put in place. In the Pacific, Japan, Mauritius, and Palau all ban bottom trawling within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones. Australia, New Zealand, and Kiribati have also prohibited bottom trawling throughout significant portions of their waters.
After careful study, the United States also recently closed more than 135,000 square miles off its West Coast, 140,000 square miles off Hawaii, and 300,000 square miles off Alaska to all bottom trawling.