An international coalition of more than 60 environment and conservation groups has called on New Zealand to pull its bottom trawl fishing fleet out of the international waters of the South Pacific to protect deep-sea life. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) urged her government to withdraw licences from New Zealand-flagged bottom trawlers that fish in international waters for orange roughy and other deep-sea species.1 An interim ban would remain until effective conservation and management measures are established that protect vulnerable deep-sea life.
In their letter to Ms Clark, DSCC coordinator, Kelly Rigg, and policy advisor, Matthew Gianni, said such initiative would demonstrate strong leadership and New Zealand's commitment to protect deep-sea life.
“New Zealand is responsible for 90% of the high seas bottom trawling in the South Pacific region. If New Zealand removes its bottom trawlers, it will immediately end the biggest source of damage to deep-sea life in the region, and it would send a positive message about New Zealand's commitment that would be noticed worldwide,” said DSCC policy advisor Matthew Gianni.
“Helen Clark has just announced she wants New Zealand aiming to be ‘the first country which is truly sustainable'. Ending New Zealand's part in the destruction of deep sea life in international waters would be a logical next step,” said Mr Gianni.
On November 6, fishing nations from around the world will join New Zealand, Australia and Chile in Hobart to resume negotiations agreed last February on a new regional fisheries management organization to cover the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea.
Every day the talks continue, so too does the destruction of bottom trawling. It's expected to take several years to conclude the negotiations and then get the new organization running effectively.
“Deep-sea life in the high seas of the South Pacific and Tasman Sea can't survive any more years of plunder by New Zealand's bottom trawl fleet,” said Mr. Gianni. “There is no need to wait, because New Zealand has the authority to act now, on its own, to halt the destruction.”
The DSCC urged the Prime Minister to ensure that her government plays a leadership role at Hobart and negotiates a temporary ban on bottom trawling throughout the entire South Pacific, to remain in place until effective conservation and management measures and enforcement capability are finally established.
“By announcing its intention to withdraw its high seas bottom trawling fleet, New Zealand would gain enormous respect for its commitment to biodiversity protection from the international community,” Mr. Gianni said.
“It would also send a strong signal to nations at the United Nations General Assembly currently negotiating over how to end destructive high seas bottom trawling that New Zealand is prepared to take direct responsibility for protecting deep-sea biodiversity,” he concluded.