A national poll released today jointly by Greenpeace and the Ecology Action Centre shows 78.3% of Canadians believe that Canada should reverse its current position on high seas bottom trawling and support a moratorium on the fishing practice in international waters – even if it may cost jobs. “This is an overwhelming response to an extremely destructive fishing practice. In refusing to call for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling Geoff Regan and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are out of step with Canadians and are out of touch with the scientific evidence,” said Bruce Cox, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada. “Over 78% of Canadians and 1136 scientists say they support a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. The question during this federal election is why doesn’t Geoff Regan and the Canadian government?” The United Kingdom, Mexico and Brazil are among some of the countries that currently support an international call for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.
A new study published in Nature has revealed serious declines in deep water species targeted for commercial fishing in the Northwest Atlantic. The study examined population trends in five species of deep water fish along the continental slope in the Atlantic waters of Canada caught in research trawl surveys between the period 1978 and 1994. Of those studied, two species – the roundnose grenadier and the onion-eye or roughhead grenadier – are commercially valuable. The remaining three species – blue hake, spiny eel and spinytail skate – are taken as bycatch in other fisheries, primarily the deep-water trawl fisheries for Greenland halibut and redfish.
Fisheries managers gathered in Estonia for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation annual meeting last week, once again failed to take the ‘urgent action’ against destructive fishing practices called for by the United Nations, apparently deciding instead to develop guidelines on gathering data and review existing research. ‘NAFO “fiddling while Rome burns” with their reform agenda’ was the headline of the Greenpeace press release lamenting the outcome of last week’s meeting (1). In spite of three reports highly critical of the performance of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) released this year (2), including that of an advisory body appointed by the Canadian government which called for NAFO to be scrapped entirely to make way for a more modern organisation, NAFO has decided to reform itself with the launch of a review of its convention and a series of “first steps towards an ecosystem approach” (3).
The once rich groundfish resources of the Grand Bank have been decimated. The organisation responsible – the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) is fatally flawed, has lost all credibility and must be scrapped, says a report commissioned by the Canadian government, underlining the urgency of international calls for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. “NAFO has been particularly ineffective in managing the stocks under its aegis… to the point that the Panel views its replacement by a more modern organization as a minimum requirement for achieving susbtainability of groundfish resources in the Grand Banks area,” says the Advisory Panel on the Sustainable Management of Straddling Fish Stocks in the Northwest Atlantic (APSS) (1) in its report (2).
The day after the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on the Law of the Seas (UNICPOLOS) ends, in a region of international waters described as a marine Jurassic park, Greenpeace captured a New Zealand bottom trawling fishing vessel on video – dragging up and throwing overboard giant, ancient, deep water corals (paragorgia), endangered black coral and a rare species of crab. “Again and again, we have caught the bottom trawling industry red-handed with the evidence of deep sea destruction in their nets. How many more pictures of clearfelled coral forests do governments need to see before they recognise that a moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters is urgently needed?” said Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace oceans campaigner onboard the Rainbow Warrior during the three-week expedition to document the destructive impacts of deep sea bottom trawling in the Tasman Sea.
Greenpeace’s ship, the Rainbow Warrior has left Auckland for international waters around New Zealand to highlight the destructive impacts of bottom trawling. The tour follows up on an expedition last year in which Greenpeace documented New Zealand and Belize bottom trawlers operating in the Tasman Sea. Dave Walsh, web editor onboard the Rainbow Warrior again this year, gave the following account of the 2004 expedition that followed the activities of seven ships as they trawled seamounts for target species of orange roughy.
Responding to the Spanish Fisheries Ministry’s position statement on a proposed UN General Assembly moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) welcomed Spain’s recognition that bottom trawling is a destructive fishing practice which needs to be addressed, but rejected their proposal for doing so as a stalling tactic.
At Seafood 2005 in Brussels this week, the Spanish Fisheries Ministry unveiled its new position in response to the growing outrage around the world about the devastating impacts of bottom trawl fishing on the high seas.
Leading deep sea scientists today spoke out against the European Community’s failure to fulfil its commitments to protect the seabed from high seas bottom trawling. Addressing a gathering at the European Parliament, hosted by MEPs Paolo Casaca and Elspeth Attwooll, the scientists echoed concerns already raised by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the European Community itself, over the enormous damage caused by bottom trawl fishing to deep-sea corals and other rare and unique species, fish populations and sensitive deep ocean habitats worldwide.
In a report focusing on the impacts of fishing in the north-east Atlantic, the prestigious UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) (1) concludes that drastic and urgent action is needed to save the marine environment from further destruction by fishing, including the ruinous effects of deep sea bottom trawlers which plough furrows up to 6m wide and 0.15m deep for many kilometers across the seabed. In addition to recommending that 30% of UK waters are closed to commercial fishing and a network of marine reserves established in UK and international waters, the Commission makes a number of specific recommendations on deep sea bottom trawling (2).