Bottom trawling continues unrestricted as international fisheries meeting ends

Date: February 17, 2006

The international fisheries meeting in Wellington today ended disappointingly with states failing to take any action to protect life in the deep sea from the destruction caused by high seas bottom trawling. Scientists are warning that species are being pushed to extinction by high seas bottom trawling before they’ve even been named. “Environment groups and thousands of people from around the world called on states to take urgent action and issue a temporary ban on bottom trawling in the international waters of the South Pacific while negotiations are under way,” said Cath Wallace of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) “Instead they have chosen to sit on their hands and sacrifice deep-sea life while talks continue for many years.” “The failure to implement a temporary ban again shows that Regional Fisheries Management Organisations are unable to deal with the destruction of life in the deep sea.

Clearly the solution is a global moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters through the UN,” said Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. Conservation International, Sue Miller Taei, Pacific Islands marine manager, said “We welcome the initiative of many Pacific Island States including Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and France in respect of its territories to push for interim protection of deep-sea life from bottom trawling. Vanuatu summed up the meeting well by saying that the real issues was being hidden under the carpet.” Disappointingly fishing nations blocked the Pacific proposal for an immediate temporary ban on bottom trawling. Lorraine Hitch from WWF said that it was also disappointing that governments appeared to be already going down the track of a sectoral fisheries management approach which has so spectacularly failed the world’s oceans to date, rather than adopting a CCAMLR-like ecosystem based management approach to this new regional governance arrangement for the South Pacific Ocean. “Given the lack of action this week, New Zealand’s position of not supporting a moratorium in RFMOs under negotiation surely becomes untenable. Just as much deep-sea life is being wiped out today as last week. There is still no protection in place and nothing in the way of specific measures has been adopted to protect the environment”, said Cath Wallace “This cycle of talk and no action was seen clearly this week, when the European Commission told a United Nations meeting in New York that the evidence of actual destruction of ecosystems is overwhelming, that there is clearly felt sense of urgency and that action must be taken, whereas in the meeting in Wellington, the EU suggested no specific measures for an interim ban on bottom trawling on the high seas. The next meeting is scheduled for over 8 months away. In the meantime, ancient deep water corals are being smashed.”

For more information contact:
Dean Baigent-Mercer, Media officer, Greenpeace +64 21 790 817 Cath Wallace, ECO + 64 21-891-994.
Carmen Gravatt, Oceans campaigner, Greenpeace +64 21 302 251 Lorraine Hitch, WWF Australia, +61 4032 41106 or +61 428 626 552