Talley’s deepwater fishing division, Amaltal, has today been found guilty of illegally bottom trawling in the Hikurangi Marine Reserve off Kaikōura. This comes eight months after the vessel’s skipper was found guilty of the same offence.
Jessica Desmond, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, says the ruling indicates an end to letting Talley’s get away scot-free, by using their employees as scapegoats.
"What we have seen with Talley’s historically is a pattern of bad behaviour: repeated charges of their vessels illegally trawling in protected areas, followed by attempts to evade responsibility by blaming the skippers," she says.
"We’re pleased that this time, Talley’s haven’t got away with it. We hope this indicates a change from MPI’s previous position, where they’ve stated they do not prosecute illegal activity by big fishing companies, as it will not change their behaviour."
For Talley’s, this is the second case before the courts this year in which they’re charged with illegally trawling in a protected area. The other case involves the alleged illegal trawling of a marine protected area in the Tasman Sea by the Amaltal Apollo. This prosecution has still not been completed two years after the offense, and the ship continues to fish in New Zealand waters.
Desmond says the real issue is that the commercial fishing fleet shouldn’t be bottom trawling vulnerable ocean habitats at all, whether they’re officially protected or not.
"Bottom trawling is an incredibly destructive way of fishing that undermines the whole ocean system. When the bottom trawling nets are dragged across seamounts, enormous damage is done to slow-growing corals and everything else living there. Seamounts studied have shown no signs of recovery, even decades later.
"There is absolutely no doubt that bottom trawling damages these vital wildlife hotspots, and this has a knock-on effect all the way up the food chain. We are in a biodiversity crisis, and we have to stop fishing this way if we’re to prevent further extinctions and ocean collapse.
"Only a small fraction of seamounts and other important wildlife hotspots are currently protected in New Zealand waters. It’s really time we put protecting them before fishing industry profits."
Since September, community activists have been covering Talley’s products in information postcards, naming and shaming them for their bottom trawling ways. Dozens of activists have taken part in the activity in supermarkets across the country.
Next Wednesday, November 18, Greenpeace and Forest and Bird, Legasea, ECO, Our Seas Our Future and WWF will deliver a petition signed by 50,000 people who want bottom trawling on seamounts to be banned. The hand-in will take place on Parliament Lawn.