New Zealand’s leading environmental organisations have today joined with recreational fishers to call on the Government to ban bottom trawling on seamounts.
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), ECO, Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, LegaSea and WWF-New Zealand are urging the public to sign a petition to the Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash, and the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, calling on them to ban bottom trawling on seamounts and other ecologically sensitive areas. The groups argue that Aotearoa’s antiquated legislation on bottom trawling lags behind the rest of the world.
Jessica Desmond, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, says bottom trawling is one of the most brutal and devastating forms of fishing that destroys entire underwater ecosystems.
“Bottom trawling involves dragging monstrous, weighted fishing nets through delicate ocean communities, like seamounts, decimating everything in their path, and there’s new evidence suggesting they’ll never fully recover,” she says.
In the process of trawling, coral forests that take centuries to form are ripped up and the ecosystem that depends on them is ruined. Kevin Hague, Chief Executive of Forest & Bird, says this is an unacceptable price to pay for fishing profits.
“Seamounts host the kauri forests of our deep oceans. Slow growing, life giving, they must be protected from the irreversible harm caused by bottom trawling. Environmental devastation must not be the cost of making a quick fishing buck,” he says.
Seamounts are biodiversity incubators that nurture and allow species, found nowhere else on Earth, to thrive. Livia Esterhazy, CEO for WWF-New Zealand says it’s time to put this precious taonga first.
“The New Zealand Government took the brave step of publicly admitting only 0.4% of our oceans are truly protected. We know they want to do better. They can start by showing they’re serious about making a change. WWF-New Zealand believes, together, it’s possible, to preserve biodiversity by stopping destructive seabed trawling.”
“In 2006, New Zealand joined the call by the UN to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices globally. Yet, at home, our fishing companies continue to destroy the seabed while lobbying the Government to keep weak laws that allow them to continue their detrimental practices,” says Barry Weeber, co-chair of ECO.
“In international waters, regulations allow trawling vessels to catch up to 300 kg of corals and other species in a single tow before they have to move from their fishing spot. In our own waters, the situation is worse – there are no effective regulations at all to limit the amount of corals destroyed and brought up in nets,” he said.
“The indiscriminate and disrespectful bottom trawl method that sees heavy gear dragged across the delicate and vulnerable benthic habitat is no longer acceptable,” says Scott Macindoe, from LegaSea.
“What the net brings to the surface is a small fraction of the destruction to unseen benthos. It has to stop,” he said.
Globally one million species face extinction. New Zealand, alone, has one of the highest proportions of species at risk in the world. The groups argue we should be creating biodiversity safe havens on land and sea rather than allowing business as usual to continue.