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Greenpeace casts net over bottom trawl fishing industry

Greenpeace New Zealand

31st May 2004

Nelson, This morning Orange Roughy Management Company was covered in a huge fishing net. A choir 'caught' beneath the company doorway sang songs about destruction of life in the deep sea. Each singing activist held placards showing pictures of creatures wiped out by bottom trawl nets.

The otherwise anonymous outside wall of the company headquarters was branded with a large arrow that read "Deep Sea Destruction".

Greenpeace Campaign Manager, Bunny McDiarmid, requested the New Zealand fishing industry (1) involved in high seas bottom trawling to stop deep-sea destruction and support a global moratorium on the high sea.

"Research is showing that bottom trawling is destroying unique and fragile deep sea life in the effort to catch what amounts to a few fish. Scientists now consider bottom trawling to be the biggest threat to deep sea life, and are warning of extinctions of creatures virtually unknown to science and whole habitats being wiped out," said Ms McDiarmid.

"The high seas are the global commons, they belong to all of us, not just the fishing industry. We must ensure that the benefits of bottom trawling are not taken at the total expense of other deep sea life," she said. The economic return of this industry represents 0.2% of the global catch and 0.5% global catch value.

The deep sea is the last undiscovered frontier on the planet. Once thought to be void of life, scientists now estimate between 500,000 to 100,000,000 species live in the deep sea. Many of these species are situated around seamounts - underwater mountains.

Over 1000 scientists from 60 countries, including New Zealand, issued a statement in December calling for a global moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Greenpeace is working internationally and nationally to support this call.

Only last week CEO of the Orange Roughy Management Company, George Clement said (2) that orange roughy bottom trawling was benign and that New Zealand had done more than most other countries to protect deep-sea environments.

"The ORMC are being hypocritical. On one hand boasting New Zealand has protected areas of the deep sea whilst on the other mounting a legal challenge against a decision to protect deep sea life within New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)", said Ms McDiarmid.

In September 2000, Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson announced that 19 out of 860 underwater mountains inside our EEZ would be protected from bottom trawling, citing "scientific studies show that marine life on seamounts is diverse and vulnerable to the impacts of bottom trawling. A number of species found on seamounts are long-lived, slow growing and slow to reproduce."

The Rainbow Warrior is in waters off New Zealand investigating bottom trawl fishing. Updates from the crew are published daily at