Oceans World Cup – netting the Destroyers

Date: June 8, 2006

On World Oceans Day, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) members highlighted the need for a time-out on high seas bottom trawling at a variety of events in countries around the world, including New Zealand, Poland and Chile.

The day kicked off in New Zealand, where DSCC member Greenpeace hung a large banner across the front of Wellington Railway Station during the morning commuter rush with a message to the Government: “Time is Running Out – Stop Deep-Sea Destruction”. (1) The event was part of a Greenpeace initiative tying World Oceans Day with the World Cup, set to begin this week. (2) Greenpeace has put together its own league table of countries that have and have not voiced their support for a United Nations moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. During the Oceans World Cup, Greenpeace is handing out red cards to the world’s Ocean Destroyers.

In Australia, Greenpeace gave Australia a red card for its inaction to stop the highly destructive fishing practice of high seas bottom trawling. New Zealand has a small involvement in the high seas bottom trawling fishing fleet, and Australia virtually none (3), yet both countries – often viewed as champions of ocean protection – are refusing to support short term measures to protect the high seas in various international forums. “Australia is taking a very backward position for no apparent reason,” said Lyn Goldsworthy, Australian representative of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. At an event organised by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) in Poland, DSCC political advisor Matthew Gianni and Dr. Alex Rogers from the London Zoological Society met with senior staff at the Sea Fisheries Institute in Gdynia, Poland. They gave a presentation on the current state of science in relation to deep sea ecosystems and the effects of high seas bottom trawling on fish stocks and habitat. Particular emphasis was placed on the need to protect high seas areas of the North East Atlantic, an area of particular interest to Poland’s Sea Fisheries Institute and the Polish fishing industry. The upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) negotiations were also a topic of discussion, together with the matter of IUU fishing, of concern to Poland given the persistent nature of the problem in high seas fisheries in the North East Atlantic. Rounding up the day’s news, in Chile Senator Alejandro Navarro Brain will present a proposal to the Chilean Senate demanding that the Chilean government ratifies the Fish Stocks Agreement and supports a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling both at the UNGA and during South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation negotiations.

Every four seconds high seas bottom trawlers wipe out an area of ocean floor the size of ten football fields. DSCC member, Greenpeace, estimates that before World Oceans Day is over, the global fleet of around 300 high seas bottom trawlers will have dragged their heavy nets across 1,500 km2 of deep-seabed, destroying some of the most diverse, ancient and fragile ocean life on the planet. “If this was happening on land, there would be an international outcry. It’s a question of out of sight, out of mind with the destruction of these beautiful ancient undersea worlds – and all for just a few fish,” said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner. “Unless high seas bottom trawling is halted now, the entire area of vulnerable deep-sea corals will have been trawled at least once within the next 16 years – that’s in just four World Cups’ time”, Tolvanen said. Greenpeace is now activating its cyberactivist ‘Ocean Defenders’ to send a ‘red card’ to the Ocean Destroyers. Ocean Defenders are invited to spread the word by sending an e-card of a huge trawl net sweeping up a football field complete with players. (4) “A moratorium on high seas bottom trawling would allow the necessary ‘time out’ for scientists to assess the extent and nature of deep-sea biodiversity while policy makers develop legally binding mechanisms for the protection, sustainable use and management of international waters,” said Matthew Gianni.

Notes: (1) Ten football pitches worth of ocean floor devastated every four seconds, Greenpeace press release, 8 June 2006 (2) The trawl is in your court, Greenpeace tells government, 8 June 2006 (3) At present there are about 250-300 high seas bottom trawlers – including about two dozen New Zealand trawlers. This is only 0.3 percent of the three million commercial fishing boats worldwide, and only 0.2 percent of global marine fisheries production. The overall contribution of high seas bottom trawling to global food security is negligible. (4) Oceans World Cup, Greenpeace Defending Our Oceans website

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