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EU fleet exposed destroying deep sea life

Press Release: Greenpeace New Zealand

19th October 2004

E.U. fleet exposed destroying deep sea life as UN meets to discuss protection

North Atlantic Ocean, 19 October 2004 -The needless destruction of the high seas was exposed by Greenpeace this morning, after documenting a EU bottom trawler operating in the North Atlantic.

Meanwhile at the UN in New York, diplomats including a New Zealand delegation, are talking about the protection of marine life in these international waters. A resolution on the issue is due to be tabled in early November.

While scientists and environmentalists are calling for an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, the EU continues to defy science and logic by not only supporting a practise that is the most destructive for deep sea life but also effectively blocking international progress towards protecting deep sea life.

A team from the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza documented a Spanish flagged bottom-trawler, the Ivan Nores, in the Hatton Bank area of the North Atlantic 410 miles north-west of Ireland.

"Bycatch" destroyed by the bottom trawling nets included squid, rays, dogfish, starfish and crustaceans. Fish caught included roundnose grenadier and Baird's smoothead, which are extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure.

Vanessa Atkinson, Greenpeace campaigner onboard the Esperanza, said: "Bottom trawl nets destroy everything in their path including marine wildlife such as coral and devastate life on underwater mountains and today we were able to expose the devastation they cause."

"Today in the North Atlantic we have clearly demonstrated that this is a global problem, earlier this year we witnessed similar destruction in the Tasman Sea by New Zealand bottom trawl vessels".

"Every day wasted just discussing the need for action is possibly another deep sea habitat gone. The New Zealand Government must lead the UN to stop destructive fishing and save the giant squid and thousands of other marine animals as they did with driftnet fishing".

Only a handful of countries have deep sea bottom trawl fleets operating in international waters, the most prolific amongst these being Spain, other European countries and Russia. New Zealand is one of only 11 countries that took approximately 95% of the reported high seas bottom trawl catch in 2001.

Following on from the expedition to the Tasman Sea earlier this year, the Esperanza is currently investigating and documenting bottom trawling in the North Atlantic. Seamounts in this area run from the south of Iceland to the Azores and form the world's largest mountain range.

Greenpeace is a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, an international alliance of organizations, representing millions of people in countries around the world, which is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.