Honk for the high seas!

Date: August 28, 2006

As Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Loyola Hearn considers Canada’s position on a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling (known in Canada as dragging), Canadian scientists and celebrities join the campaign for a moratorium on Canada’s streets and wharfs, with signs like “Honk for the High Seas” and “High Seas Dragging is a Drag”.

Canadian groups, among them Ecology Action Centre, a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition member, are encouraging concerned Canadians to pen a message to the public and the Canadian government and then stand in symbolic and conspicuous locations with their signs. Protesters are then invited to post their photographs to http://deepseas.blogspot.com. A number of scientists and celebrities have already added their voices to the campaign that began on 14 August and is expected to run for a month. In Halifax, John Dunsworth, a familiar face from a popular Canadian soap held up a sign reading “high seas dragging is a drag”, while another blog entry from Dr. Annelise Chapman of Dalhousie University states, “…there is no reason not to support Canada joining in a moratorium on bottom trawling .

The evidence and science is all there – as Canadian citizens we need to ask our political representatives to do what’s right in support of all our natural environments.” In May, renowned deep ocean explorer, Dr. Sylvia Earle met with Mr. Hearn who could not say whether Canada would support a moratorium but agreed with Dr. Earle’s views on deep sea bottom trawling. “It does damage to the stocks and it does damage to the habitat,” Hearn said. (1) Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has so far failed to agree to a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, in spite of overwhelming public and scientific opinion in favour of a moratorium and the fact that the moratorium would not apply inside Canadian waters, and its fishing industry is not active in high seas fisheries. In January, a national poll released jointly by Greenpeace and the Ecology Action Centre showed that 78.3% of Canadians believe Canada should support a moratorium on the fishing practice in international waters – even if it may cost jobs. (2)

Last year, scientists from Canada called on their government for action as did scientists from Australia and Britain, underlining the support of 1,452 scientists from 69 countries for a temporary halt to bottom trawling in international waters. This year a number of the world’s leading deep ocean scientists have continued their tour around Europe to bring their concerns directly to decision makers. In May, another Dalhousie scientist, Dr. Ransom Myers referred to Canada’s position against a United Nations moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, as regressive. At the DSCC event, David Suzuki said it was time for people to take the Canadian government to task. (3) The United Nations is scheduled to vote in November on a resolution to impose a moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling.

Notes: (1) Canada’s Fisheries Minister agrees bottom trawling damages habitat and fish stocks, DSCC news, 31 May 2006 (2) Overwhelming Support for High Seas Bottom Trawling Moratorium, DSCC news, 12 January 2006 (3) Time to take Canada to task, DSCC news, 31 May 2006

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