24, Nov, 2006


Category: Greenpeace NZ

Friday 24 November 2006, United Nations, New York: Negotiations at the UN to adopt a possible moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters have been torpedoed by a small number of influential fishing nations led by Iceland says Greenpeace. In doing so, they have put the interests of their own fishing fleets above other countries, the consensus for the marine scientific community and conservationists.

"The final agreement has more loopholes in it than a bottom trawl net", said Karen Sack, Greenpeace International Oceans Policy Advisor who has been monitoring the negotiations at the UN. "It does nothing to significantly change the way our oceans are being mismanaged."

"The international community should be outraged that Iceland could almost singlehandedly sink deep-sea protection and the food security of future generations, scuttling hopes for what could have been a much needed sea change in how we share and use the international waters of our planet. They should be embarrassed as should all those states that did not stand up to them and fight for the future of the oceans," Sack added.

While countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Island States, the US, Brazil, India, South Africa, Chile, Germany, and even the European Community and Canada supported strong action at the UN, their drive to win consensus at all costs has resulted in a terribly weak outcome at a critical juncture.

New scientific evidence shows that by 2048, most commercial fisheries are likely to have collapsed (1). In addition, new economic data indicates that the global bottom trawl fleet in international waters would operate at a loss without the substantial subsidies it receives (2).

"What the few countries opposed to a UN moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters must realize is that for the sake of the future of their own industries, this cannot continue," said Greenpeace New Zealand's Ocean Campaigner Mike Hagler.

"The oceans are not a bottomless resource to be exploited the way they currently are. Neither is the majority of the global community interested in watching the depletion of our oceans by large unregulated fishing fleets. Radical change is needed to protect ocean life. New Zealand and the many other countries which made commitments to support the UN moratorium will now have to forge ahead and act on their concerns by developing concrete measures to ensure bottom trawling destruction in international waters is stopped," said Hagler.

Countries that committed to supporting a UN moratorium now have the opportunity to protect vulnerable habitats from destructive fishing and by tightening market access to bottom-trawled fish and pressing for the establishment of a global network of marine reserves across the world's oceans. The UN Fisheries Resolution is due to be adopted by the General Assembly on December 7th.

(1) Worm et al. 2006. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science vol. 314. 3 November 2006
(2) Assoc. Prof. Rashid Sumalia, lead author of the study Catching More Bait: A Bottom-up Re-estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies (available at http://www.fisheries.ubc.ca/publications/reports/14-6.pdf, see Chapter 3.)

Contacts: Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Mike Hagler on 021-321-379
Communications officer Dean Baigent-Mercer 021 790 817
Greenpeace International Oceans Policy Advisor Karen Sack in New York +1202 415 5403