Landmark Agreement First of Its Kind to Stop Destruction from High Seas Bottom Trawling

Date: May 4, 2007

4 May 2007 – Renaca, Chile. Up to 25% of the high seas are to be protected from bottom trawling following a landmark decision by nations fishing in the South Pacific. The South Pacific high seas (areas beyond national jurisdiction) contain the last and largest pristine deep-sea marine environment on earth.

Following negotiations around the establishment of a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) for the area, which concluded today (4th May), governments have agreed to put a stop to destruction caused by bottom trawl fishing on the high seas. Recognizing that the new agreement would mean an end to high seas bottom trawling, New Zealand, the nation responsible for some 90% of the high seas bottom trawling in the area, put forward the proposal and said: “… in putting forward the draft we are aware that adoption of this text would severely constrain the ability of the New Zealand fishing industry to continue bottom trawling on the high seas around New Zealand. Because of the cost implications of the necessary research and assessment and observer requirements, it may even have the effect of putting an end to bottom trawling.”1 The agreement takes effect on 30 September 2007 and will close high seas areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known to exist or likely to occur. Beyond this date, rigorous assessments and controls will be required to ensure no damage will occur before bottom trawling can continue. This is in linewith the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) Resolution on high seas bottom trawling agreed in 2006. Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) which campaigns for high seas protection from bottom trawling and was present at the RFMO meeting said, “This is a major step forward in the protection of biodiversity on the high seas. This is the most significant meeting of fishing nations since the UN GA resolution and it has done what the resolution required. It can be done, it has been done, and it’s time for all countries to do the same in all other ocean regions.” The measures agreed today will remain in force until the formal establishment of the South Pacific RFMO in several years time. They cover the high seas of the whole of the South Pacific Ocean from the equator to the Southern Ocean, stretching from Chile to Australia. Key outcomes agreed at the meeting include:

  • Vessels will not be allowed to bottom trawl in areas that are identified or likely to have vulnerable marine ecosystems without prior assessment and the implementation of highly precautionary protection measures.
  • Such areas include cold water corals and sponge fields. These predominantly occur around the many seamounts in the area and are the locations specifically targeted by fishing vessels.
  • Other controls will also be employed such as vessel locator monitoring systems and observers on every bottom trawling vessel. Vessels will need to move at least five nautical miles away from any site where they encounter vulnerable marine ecosystems (e.g. they bring up deep-water corals in the nets).

Only the Russian Federation stated its opposition to the measures but, as of this year, has no bottom trawl vessels operating in the region. However, all other countries committed to abide by the agreement which was formally adopted by the meeting today. Juan Carlos Cardenas of DSCC member Ecoceanos said, “We’ll be closely monitoring the implementation of this agreement to ensure that governments live up to what they have agreed to here today, but this is an historic step for the protection of deep sea biodiversity in the high seas.” Congratulating New Zealand for pioneering the new approach, Matthew Gianni said, “If the nation with the largest high seas trawl fleet in the region can take this stance, there is no excuse for those with less at stake. By now going and putting into place effective regulations to implement this agreement, New Zealand can demonstrate real leadership in the protection of biodiversity on the high seas.” 1 Opening statement of the delegation of New Zealand to the Third Meeting for the Establishment of the South Pacific Regional Management Organization, Renaca, Chile 30 April – 4 May 2007 NOTES
The meeting took place in Renaca, Chile to negotiate a new Regional Fisheries Management Organization for the South Pacific from 30th April to 4th May. It was attended by Japan, S. Korea, Russia, China, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, EC, Ukraine, France (on behalf of overseas territories), Palau and five other South Pacific Island nations The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/61/105 by consensus on 8 December 2006. Paragraphs 80-91 of the Resolution establish the international agreement for action on high seas bottom fishing. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is an alliance of over 50 international organizations, representing millions of people in countries aroun the world, which is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. DSCC member organizations Ecoceanos, Greenpeace, Eco New Zealand and Oceana all participated in the meeting. Photos of deep-sea coral taken by a New Zealand trawler operating on the South Pacific high seas can be found at:

In Renaca, Chile Mathew Gianni +31 646 168 899
Juan Carlos Cardenas (in Spanish) + 562 633 6183
Duncan Currie + 64 21 632 335 In the UK
Mirella von Lindenfels + 44 (0) 7717 844 352

World Press: Pact to curb bottom trawling in South Pacific( South Pacific to Stop Bottom-Trawling (BBC) Bottom trawling at the end of the line?( Green groups hail trawling agreement a breakthrough (The World Today Australia) Fishing Limits Sought in South Pacific (Norwalk Advocate) Nations agree to place limits on bottom-trawling in South Pacific (Earth Times) More than 20 nations seek an end to destructive fishing in South Pacific (570 Deal to end destructive bottom trawling reached (Monga 20 Nations Agree on New Fishing Limits ( S Pacific to stop bottom trawling (South Asian Journal) 20 nations agree on new fishing limits (Seattle Post – Intelligencer) 20 Nations Agree on New Fishing Limits (Omaha World-Herald) Fishing limits sought in South Pacific ( More than 20 nations seek an end to destructive fishing in South Pacific ( 20 Nations Agree on New Fishing Limits (San Francisco Chronicle)Banning bottom trawling (Blogspot) Protegen Pacífico Sur de la pesca de arrastre(Prensa Latina, Cuba)Quieren control a pesca de arrastre en Pacífico Sur ( Acuerdo internacional pone bajo control pesca de arrastre en Pacífico Sur Globovision El Pacífico sur contra la pesca de arrastre (BBC internacional pone bajo control pesca de arrastre en Pacífico Sur (Nacion) Interdiction de la pêche au chalut de fond dans le Pacifique sud (L’internaute) Grundschleppnetz-Fischerei im Pazifik verboten( Fin des chaluts de fond dans le Pacifique sud (Le Figaro)