New Zealand will push for urgent interim measures to address the effects of bottom trawling on the high seas, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton will tell parties to a future Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) meeting in Wellington today.
"We recognise it may take 3 or 4 years for the RFMO to get fully established so we support urgent interim measures. NZ will strongly promote a process to establish a number of these measures this week, including a network of marine protected areas for sensitive environments," Jim Anderton said.
The New Zealand delegation will raise the issue at the meeting and challenge the participating countries to take urgent action on the issue. New Zealand’s objective for an RFMO in the South Pacific is the establishment of a management structure that ensures the sustainable use of fish stocks and the protection of the marine environment.
"The New Zealand Government is deeply concerned about the sustainable use of fish stocks and the impacts of bottom trawling on vulnerable marine habitats. But we have to find a balance between our need to sustainably produce food and environmental impacts," Jim Anderton said. "Banning trawling out-right is not an option, but we do need to ensure that sensitive and representative ecosystems are protected," he continued.
Jim Anderton said New Zealand would support a global moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, in principle, if such a proposal had sufficient support from States to be a practical and enforceable option.
"Management of international waters only occurs through international agreements mandated by the United Nations. Agreement by the United Nations General Assembly on this issue requires unanimity. We are a long way from that for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling," Jim Anderton said.
"The lack of an international consensus on this issue, and the absence of a legal framework to impose protective measures, is precisely why we need Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, such as the one New Zealand is co-sponsoring, and which is being discussed in Wellington this week," Jim Anderton said.
"In areas where no RFMO exists or is not under negotiation we support a moratorium. However, we need to recognise that without international cooperation such a moratorium will be difficult to enforce," Jim Anderton said.
New Zealand is working hard to put in place workable management frameworks supported by international cooperation.
"But if we cannot get agreement on an RFMO for the South Pacific in the near future, or anywhere else on the high seas for that matter, then we support a moratorium on bottom trawling until sensitive areas can be identified and permanently protected," he said.