target bottom-trawlers

Greens target bottom-trawlers An end to bottom-trawling in domestic waters will be a high priority in any post-election talks between the Greens and Labour.

The aim is a major plank of the Green Party’s conservation policy being launched by co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons at tomorrow’s Forest and Bird annual meeting in Wellington.

She said the “massive devastation” of New Zealand’s undersea environment had to be stopped.

Although the Greens are not talking bottom lines before the election, it is understood the issue will be given high priority in any post-election talks with Labour to form a government.

Ms Fitzsimons said bottom-trawling was one of the main focuses of the policy, under which fishing companies would be forced to prove their methods did not cause damage to marine ecosystems and protected species. This would end the practice in many areas surrounding New Zealand.

Greenpeace this week released a striking photograph of coral dredged up by a New Zealand bottom-trawler, and the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior trailed such a vessel off the North Island’s west coast.

On Wednesday, protesters from the Rainbow Warrior used inflatables to dart near the Ocean Reward, owned by Nelson fishing firm Amaltal.

The activists cabled shut giant doors so the net could not be released. They also attached floats to the net to prevent it being lowered to the sea floor.

There were angry scenes the day before as frustrated crew on the trawler fired potatoes from compressed-air guns and aimed high-pressure water hoses at the protesters.

There is increasing concern internationally about bottom-trawling, in which nets up to 40m wide are dragged along the sea floor.

Huge chains or rollers attached to the front of the nets destroy everything in their path. The method is the most common way of fishing in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone and internationally.

Ms Fitzsimons said if New Zealanders could see what was happening, they would be outraged.

“The best way to illustrate it is to imagine a large bulldozer crashing its way through a forest, crushing and destroying everything in its path in an effort to net a handful of fantails.”

It was abhorrent to think that such an environment was being shattered for the sake of fishing company profits.

“New Zealand’s undersea forests deserve the same protection as those on our land.”

But, said Seafood Industry Council chief executive Owen Symmans, “New Zealand fishers simply do not drag heavy trawl gear across pristine sea floor as suggested. Fishing only occurs in a very small area of ocean, which has generally been fished for many years.”

Greenpeace itself had identified New Zealand bottom-trawlers as “good operators” in a report in March, he said.

George Clement, chief executive of the Nelson-based Orange Roughy Management Company, said any type of food-production business changed the environment to some degree, but it was a matter of balance, and the impact from bottom-trawling was extremely small compared with the amount of ocean.

Two-thirds of New Zealand’s zone was not trawled because it was too deep or closed by regulation.

additional reporting NZPA
By Kevin Taylor

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