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.
Initial impressions of the outcome this year’s meeting of the UNICPOLOS from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition team in New York. The negotiations finished at about one o’clock this morning. There were moments of real drama as countries grappled for real action just as others tried to prevent it. New Zealand and Costa Rica with support from Mexico and others, fought hard to get a call for urgent and targeted action to protect deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas, in spite of the fatigue, the lateness of the hour and the clear frustration of many delegations that the negotiations were dragging on.
As Greenpeace activists onboard the Rainbow Warrior take action against bottom trawling fishing vessels in the Tasman Sea, the Maritime Union of New Zealand says it supports the direct action. Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says it has become obvious that overfishing and bad practices such as bottom trawling are wrecking the environment, and would also destroy the industry that depends on the environment. According to Hanson it is time for New Zealanders think about the livelihoods of future generations as well as the environment. According to Glover and Smith, he’s right – fishermen have only 20 years before all deep-sea fisheries present in 2003 are commercially extinct. (1)
The DSCC has released a white paper highlighting the six main arguments that have motivated 1,136 scientists from 69 nations to publicly call for an immediate time-out on the most destructive fishing method in the least protected place on Earth – deep sea bottom trawling on the high seas.
Every year for the last three, environmental NGO representatives have stood before you and pleaded for real and immediate protection of ocean life. Every year, on behalf of the millions of people that support us, we have asked that you become guardians of the oceans for our children’s future – to protect against overfishing, ocean pollution from noise, shipping, oil and gas exploration, military activities and increasingly the impacts of climate change.
The DSCC has released a white paper highlighting the six main arguments that have motivated 1,136 scientists from 69 nations to publicly call for an immediate time-out on the most destructive fishing method in the least protected place on Earth – deep sea bottom trawling on the high seas. The report, launched at a press conference at the sixth meeting of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS), is a synthesis of the science to date on high seas bottom trawling by group of scientists (1).
It isn’t, on the face of it, a hard case to make. In fact, it would seem obvious: dragging bottom trawls, complete with giant steel doors and rollers, across the sea bed is bound to be immensely damaging to the deep sea habitat and the species that live there. As far back as 1376, fishermen from the Thames Estuary petitioned king Edward III of England to ban primitive trawl nets that they feared could cause “great damage of the common’s realm and the destruction of the fisheries.”
As the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) meeting begins today, the international community faces a crisis of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. The high seas make up the majority of the world’s oceans and large parts of the high seas are devoid of effective internationally agreed controls for activities such as high seas bottom trawling making it the single biggest area open to abuse and exploitation.
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.
Following on from a European tour in which leading marine biologists brought their concerns direct to European decision-makers, a number of European countries are being asked to support a moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas in the run-up to the EU’s Law of the Sea Working Group (COMAR) meeting on Friday 13 May.