Shame on Harper

Further international embarrassment for Canada on the environment – this time it’s bottom trawling

Press release - November 13, 2006
Greenpeace activists gathered today in front of the parliament buildings in Ottawa to express anger at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposed position on high seas bottom trawling at this week’s United Nations’ discussions on high seas fisheries management. Dressed as fish, squid and other deep sea creatures activists held banners reading “Shame on Harper” and called on the Prime Minister to end his complicity in the destruction of the world’s oceans and support a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

"Last week it was the policies of this government on Kyoto that were embarrassing Canadians on the world stage and this week it's high seas bottom trawling," said Bruce Cox Greenpeace Canada Executive Director. 'Canada's new government is rapidly becoming an environmental repeat offender on the world stage. Prime Minister Harper has an opportunity to show environmental leadership and instead he chooses once again to put the financial interests of the few ahead of the environmental concerns of the many. Shame on him."

United Nation member states will resume talks on a proposed high seas bottom trawling moratorium on Friday November 17th, in New York in preparation for a UN General Assembly debate in December. Canada has joined with Spain, Japan and Russia in opposing the proposed UN moratorium, despite growing support from unlikely quarters like the US, Australia and the UK and the fact that there are no Canadians trawlers operating on the high seas.

High seas bottom trawling is the practice of fishing by dragging huge heavy nets, metal doors and rubber wheels along the ocean floor, taking all the fish and crustaceans and crushing corals, sponges and anything else in the way. The proposed moratorium would temporarily suspend bottom trawling of the high seas until specific management plans for the international waters can be developed.

"Prime Minster Harper's reasoning that a moratorium cannot be enforced is without merit," added Cox. "Companies that practice bottom trawling on the high seas in violation of a moratorium could face any number of penalties including being blacklisted, refused fishing permits inside domestic waters, and barred from ports. Effective enforcement is simply a matter of political will and international leadership."

Over the past several weeks, pressure on the Canadian government has been mounting with over 10,000 people from Canada and around the world sending emails to the Prime Minister urging Canada to change its position and support the moratorium.  The Bush administration has signed on to the moratorium and over 1,500 scientists worldwide have called for an immediate time out from this destructive practice.

The Harper government's continued opposition to a moratorium is all the more concerning in light of a study released this month by Professor Boris Worm of Dalhousie  University which shows that we may deplete wild caught fish stocks by 2048 if we continue current fishing practices. Greenpeace is urging the Prime Minister to learn from our mistakes in the Cod fishery and take a precautionary, environmentally responsible path. Otherwise, we are headed towards to the collapse of the world's fisheries.

Other contacts: Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada Executive Director, cell: 416-419-7341Jane Story, Greenpeace Canada Communications, cell: 416-930-9055Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications, cell: 416-880-2757 (French and English)

Exp. contact date: 2006-11-19 00:00:00

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