Around the world, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition calls for UN action to stop the deep sea destruction

Date: October 5, 2004

Deep sea bottom trawling has been compared to clearcutting ancient forests or using a bulldozer to catch rabbits. Campaigning to save the high seas from the most destructive form of fishing, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition held press conferences in London, New York and Chile.

London, UK. “We are calling for a moratorium on all bottom trawling on the high seas,” Deep Sea Conservation Coordinator, Kelly Rigg explained at the press conference in London. She compared the lack of inaction to date to “waking up to find a rattlesnake in your bed and suggesting that someone, somewhere, consider doing something.” Dead, destroyed or dying—95% of the material caught in deep sea bottom trawlers’ steel nets that are dragged along the seabed, are thrown back overboard, dead, destroyed or dying. “These trawls really do devastate the seabed, destroying everything in their paths,”confirmed marine biologist Alex Rogers from the British Antarctic Survey.

New York, US. Mike Hirshfield, senior scientist with coalition member, Oceana, speaking during a news conference at the United Nations in New York, compared bottom trawling with mining. “We need to have an immediate moratorium on bottom trawling, until we can get the legal and scientific framework in place so that we can match our deep seas sustainability,” he said. Also attending the New York press conference were coalition representatives from Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council who briefed UN officials on the need for urgent action.  Seamounts (geological outcrops rising from the seabed) are covered in cold water corals that can take millennia to grow and are teeming with potentially millions of highly endemic species that may become extinct before they are even discovered.

Santiago, Chile. “A moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas, will give immediate protection to the rich but still unknown biodiversity of the deep seas” noted Chile’s coalition of seven environmental NGOs working on marine issues and the confederation of the industrial fishery workers. Together, they presented Chile’s President Lagos with a letter, also signed by a number of Senators and Deputies from the Chilean Congress. They urged Chile, as one of the countries with the biggest presence and maritime responsibility in Latin America, to play a key role in the next United Nations General Assembly negotiations and fully support the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition’s call for a UN moratorium on bottom trawl fishing on the high seas.  A press conference was subsequently held in Chile’s governmental palace. Marcel Claude, Director of the Oceana office for South America and Antarctica stated that “in economical terms bottom trawling fishing activities are not important. Annual incomes derived from those activities ranged from 300 to 400 million USD in 2001. That is only 0,5% of the 75 billions generated by the fishing industry worldwide. This situation demonstrates the unequal relationship between economical gain and ecological damage caused by this fishing gear. Therefore, the economical impact of a moratorium on this industry would be minimum whilst at the same time, the benefits on the environment would be tremendous”.

Wellington, New Zealand. The New Zealand contingent of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) comprising ECO, WWF-New Zealand, Forest and Bird and Greenpeace, placed this advertisement (click on above thumbnail for large format) in Wellington newspapers calling for New Zealand’s Labour government to lead a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling – just as it did in 1989 with driftnet fishing. Only a handful of countries have deep sea bottom trawl fleets operating in international waters, the most prolific amongst these being Spain, other European countries and Russia. New Zealand is one of only 11 countries that took approximately 95% of the reported high seas bottom trawl catch in 2001 and have been promoting and exporting this technology around the world.


Coalition Members’ Websites:
LLamamiento a la ONU para que actúe: La pesca de arrastre destructiva amenaza los fondos submarinos
Destructive Fishing Practice Threatens Ancient Seabed Habitats — Call For UN To Take Action
Greenpeace ship to investigate devastation of giant squid habitat (Greenpeace UK)
Greenpeace New Zealand

Webcasts and radio:
London Press Conference
Xavier Pastor summarises the problem and solution. (Windows Media Player). English / Spanish
Centro de Conservacion Cetacea (Spanish)
New York Press Conference (UN Webcast) (starts at 3.20 minutes)
ABC Online AM Broadcast:
Real Audio / Windows Media
BBC interview with Oceana’s Toni Font, (Spanish).
Press Coverage:
Nets leave a trail of death in the sea (New Zealand Herald)
Deep-sea trawling’s ‘great harm’ (BBC) English / Spanish
Pesca em aguas profundas ameaca especies ‘novas’, diz estudo (BBC Brazil)
NGOs urge UN General Assembly to Adopt Moratorium on High Seas Bottom Trawling (IISD)
Conservationists appeal for deep sea trawling ban (Reuters)
Greenpeace to protest deep sea bottom trawlers (Reuters Foundation AlertNet)
More from Chile:
Piden a Lagos que apoye moratoria de pesca de arrastre (24 horas)
Solicitan apoyo del Gobierno a moratoria a pesca de arrastre (El Mostrador)

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