12, Feb, 2021

Bottom trawling destruction continues after NZ resisted South Pacific ocean protection measures

Category: ECO Inc

At the annual meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), online due to covid-19, New Zealand argued for weak protection measures and in favour of more bottom trawling.  ECO attended the meeting along with representative from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) including international lawyer Duncan Currie and ECO's Co-Chair Barry Weeber.

New Zealand repeatedly resisted international efforts at ocean protection measures for the South Pacific at an on line ten-day international meeting which concluded in the first week of February, says ECO and other environmental observers.  In contrast, other nations attempted to put more restrictions on bottom trawling to protect vulnerable areas.

Barry Weeber said New Zealand promoted unsustainable fishing for orange roughy at the meeting by advocating catch limits that could have wiped out small stocks.  “Australia in contrast took a more conservative and sustainable approach and won out in the end."

"New Zealand watered down proposals from other countries," says Jessica Desmond, campaigner at Greenpeace.  “The Minister needs to instruct officials to focus on protecting the ocean ecosystems rather than the fishing industry.” A review of the fishing measure (regulation) is scheduled for January 2022.

“The measure needs a fundamental overhaul at the review next year to prevent damaging bottom trawling on deep-sea corals, sponges and other biodiversity ecosystems instead of the current measure which actually allows trawling in areas where corals and sponges are known or likely to be found,” said DSCC adviser Duncan Currie.

Cath Wallace of ECO reports that New Zealand promoted fake "protection" measure that banned bottom fishing below 1400m depth.  No fishing occurs that deep.  "It is another bogus measure to pretend NZ is protecting the ocean."

Karli Thomas of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, says New Zealand was asked to explain itself on two occasions.  “Through the course of this meeting we discovered that a New Zealand vessel has once again ripped up large quantities of coral and sponges from the ocean floor, something the Government has kept secret from the public.”

“New Zealand was further embarrassed when asked what was happening with the Amaltal Apollo, a Talley’s ship caught in 2018 bottom trawling in a closed area, which New Zealand kept off the fishing blacklist two meetings in a row by promising to prosecute at home. That prosecution is still not complete, over two years later.”

Thomas says New Zealand also watered down other protective measures proposed, including one from the European Union to strengthen the ‘move on’ rule which is designed to protect deep sea corals and other vulnerable animals.

“The EU quite sensibly wanted the rule to change so if you pull up large quantities of protected species, you should have to move five nautical miles away in order to begin fishing again. This would mean that the fragile ecology of seamounts was less likely to get completely annihilated."

“But New Zealand stood against it, advocating for moving just one nautical mile. Many seamounts are more than one nautical mile across, so it’s basically giving commercial fishing the thumbs up to trash the entire habitat.”

Greenpeace’s Jessica Desmond says it’s clear the New Zealand delegation is still working for commercial fishing, not the New Zealand public.

“Tens of thousands of New Zealanders care about ocean protection, and all the amazing life found in South Pacific waters. We cherish our rich seas.

“But that’s not the message Government representatives are taking with them. There is another chance next year when the regulations will be reviewed. We need the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to pull NZ's delegates into line, and remind them that we are in a biodiversity crisis. The last thing we should be doing is advocating for more bottom trawling. They should be actively advocating for marine protection and ocean science.”


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