10, Jun, 2005

"Red Herrings" report debunks fishing industry claims.

Category: ECO Inc

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (New Zealand arm) Today the New Zealand arm of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (1) released a report and photographs that debunk the fishing industry's claims that the high seas bottom trawling industry is sustainable.

The report, "Red Herrings" (2), written for the DSCC by the Washington-based Marine Conservation Biology Institute, addresses, and scientifically debunks each industry claim about high seas bottom trawling.

It provides new evidence of the destruction of important deep sea biodiversity by bottom trawling in New Zealand and international waters. The report's findings contradicts Nelson high seas bottom trawling company Amaltal's director Andrew Talley's comments that talk of bottom trawling damage and the unsustainability of the industry is "unsubstantiated claptrap".

"This report shows that the bottom trawling industry's denials lack credibility. Over 1000 international marine scientists agree that the damage caused to the seafloor is huge," said Shirley Atatagi-Coutts, Greenpeace campaigner.

"Less than 4% of our ocean floor is comprised of seamounts, - these small areas are the 'national park forests' of our waters," said Forest & Bird Conservation Officer, Debs Martin.

"Around 85% of these seamounts in New Zealand waters have been trawled. On the Challenger Plateau (east of Taranaki), some of these seamounts have been trawled to the point where stocks of orange roughy are only 3% of their original population and 97% of their coral forests cleared. This kind of overfishing is abusive, indiscriminate and may already have caused extinction."

Evidence shows it's not just orange roughy caught in these nets, but giant coral forests, starfish, kina, squid, and deep sea sharks.

"One sweep with the bottom trawl, and it's as though you've felled a forest. Considering these 'forests' take hundreds of years to grow, the fishing industry is doing some of the greatest destruction on this planet," said Cath Wallace of ECO.

The information in the report has been backed up by first-hand reports from people active in the fishing industry in Nelson, where members of the DSCC have been speaking with people at information stalls over the past month.

"I have been overwhelmed by the number of fishers who approach us and say 'well done'," said Ms Martin. "One woman told me: 'I've been working for them for years. You should see the stuff that comes in – coral, crabs, even a giant squid. It's disgusting. I just hope you're not too late'."

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is joining with the international scientific community in calling for a UN moratorium on bottom trawling. The issue is being discussed at the UN this week.

"New Zealand must make the commitment to stop this damaging practice. New Zealand is one of the top 11 bottom trawling nations on the high seas. Our fishing fleets are dragging these devastating trawls across seamounts right now – and Government attention is needed to stop it," said Cath Wallace.

Debs Martin, Conservation Officer, Forest and Bird, 027-684-0599
Cath Wallace, ECO, 021 891 994
Shirley Atatagi-Coutts, Greenpeace 021 858 010

Notes: 1) The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is an international organisation. New Zealand members are Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society (Inc), Greenpeace NZ, and the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ.

2) The Red Herrings report can be found at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/pdfs/RedHerrings2005.pdf

Information specific to New Zealand is on pages 9, 10 and 11.