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NZ government’s stance on bottom trawling in international waters is weak and ineffective

13 September 2006

Foreign Minister Winston Peters, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton, and Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced yesterday that "New Zealand is taking a strong stance on bottom trawling in international waters, and will seek the support of other nations at regional meetings and at the UN General Assembly next month".

The NZ government will have difficulty promoting an international ban while it continues to allow bottom trawling in its own waters.

The government announcement came five days after the Ministers received a letter from TerraNature calling for a moratorium on bottom trawling in the New Zealand EEZ, and a prohibition on New Zealand vessels bottom trawling in the Southern Indian Ocean.

See TerraNature letter

The Ministers said the government was seeking an immediate moratorium on the high seas outside areas where competent Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) existed, or were under negotiation.

The moratorium supported by the NZ government will have no effect in high seas in the South Pacific region for many years because negotiation of an RFMO is underway.

For more than a year New Zealand has been negotiating with other countries to establish the South Pacific RFMO. Negotiations for RFMOs typically take at least four years.

This will buy New Zealand a good period of time for bottom trawling to continue to obliterate deepsea habitat. Four years is enough time to destroy a benthic ecosystem.

Negotiations for the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement commenced in 2001, but it took 5 years for the agreement to be finally opened for signatures last July.  It will still be several years before the regional fisheries management regime for the Southern Indian Ocean can be effectively implemented.

In referring to a UN moratorium, Jim Anderton said such a measure would exclude bottom trawling from about a third of the world’s high seas. He said the government was also advocating that RFMOs should institute strong conservation measures to protect vulnerable ecosystems such as seamounts by 2008.

So New Zealand bottom trawlers would still have at least a couple of years of freedom in the Southern Indian Ocean.

A moratorium over only one-third of the world's oceans is far from being a "strong measure", and another two years is hardly an "immediate" action.

Strong conservation measures in RFMOs will not effect New Zealand for many years because the South Pacific RFMO will not be an effective regime for a long time.

Mr Carter said New Zealand was putting RFMOs on notice.  "We want decisive action to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems by 2008. If that does not happen we will have no choice but to look at other options, such as a global moratorium" he said.

New Zealand wants decisive action in RFMOs, but continues to allow bottom trawling in its own EEZ.

The Ministers say “the UN General Assembly has already made it clear that establishing controls on the adverse impacts of bottom trawling are urgently needed, and we must accelerate efforts to get them in place".

“There is growing concern and too little known about the impact of bottom trawling on unique marine life and habitats, and we think the international community should proceed with caution, and look very closely at where this fishing method is used.”

Mr Anderton said New Zealand had a very good system of management within its own EEZ that ensured fisheries would remain sustainable and that environmental issues were addressed.

The issue of bottom trawling in the New Zealand EEZ is not being addressed. What is good for New Zealand in international waters, is not practiced within its' own waters.

Mr Peters said effective management in international waters could best be delivered through international agreements negotiated through RFMOs or through the United Nations.

“Since 2004, New Zealand has been prepared to support, in principle, the concept of an interim global moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas, if such a proposal had sufficient global support to be practical and enforceable."

RFMOs only cover areas outside national jurisdiction. There is a lot New Zealand can do within its EEZ, and it can even stop its citizens from practicing bottom trawling anywhere in the world.

Greens Conservation and Fisheries Spokesperson Metiria Turei says the Government has a real opportunity to lead the world on promoting a global moratorium on bottom trawling, but it can only be taken seriously if it toughens its stance in our EEZ.

  Take action .....

Write to the Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton ... express your opinion.

Send a prepared email
(which can be edited)

Send a personal email:
or mail a letter to:
Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Fisheries
Wellington, New Zealand

No postage stamp is needed if mailed by an individual in NZ.

Also send a copy to:
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Chris Carter
Minister of Conservation
Hon David Benson-Pope
Minister for the Environment
Hon David Parker
Minister of Climate Change Issues
Hon Damien O'Connor
Minister of Tourism
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Trade

TerraNature has expressed the need for a bottom trawling ban to the Minister of Fisheries.

See TerraNature letter


Coffin fish at Macauley seamount on the Kermadec Ridge (top left).

Photo NOAA
View larger image

Coral bycatch (below) from a New Zealand vessel bottom trawling in the high seas.

Image Crown Copyright © Ministry of Fisheries
View 70 images of bottom trawling bycatch

Copyright © 2006 TerraNature Trust. All rights reserved.

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