Busted! New Zealand trawlers caught in the act

Feature story - June 8, 2004
Looks like somebody was throwing us a red herring. Last week, Greenpeace activists targeted the Nelson, New Zealand headquarters of the Orange Roughy Management Company (ORMC) in a peaceful protest against destructive bottom trawling. Their Chief Executive denied operating in international waters. But guess what our ship, Rainbow Warrior, just found?

The catch is hauled aboard the NZ deep sea trawler Corsair in international waters in the Tasman sea. The red fish is orange roughy, the rest is mostly bycatch to be discarded.

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The Rainbow Warrior located the Amaltal Voyager, Westbay, and Corsair around 350 miles off the coast of New Zealand on the Northwest Challenger Plateau. The plot thickens: it turns out that the Amaltal Fishing Company is a shareholder of the Orange Roughy Management Company (ORMC).

Despite their previous bravado, the bottom trawling industry doesn't seem to want to communicate. The occupants of the three ships haven't responded to our contact via radio - except occasionally with, shall we say, "impolite" hand gestures.

While our intrepid Greenpeace activists documented the fishing activities on the high seas in the face of an unexpectedly large swell and a little subsequent seasickness, a different type of Greenpeace delegation began talks at the UN to secure a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. New Zealand will now be in the hot seat since all of the vessels revealed by the Rainbow Warrior were registered in New Zealand.

"The New Zealand Government has yet to say whether it will support or oppose a moratorium but they must be feeling the heat in New York at the moment," said Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner, from aboard the Rainbow Warrior.

Yesterday at a UN press conference delegates were treated to a rare broadcast from on board the Rainbow Warrior giving them a first hand look at the activists at work. Many scientists also made presentations at the conference - in fact over a thousand of them are supporting the call for a moratorium on bottom trawling because of the absolute devastation caused by this fishing technique. Many species have not even been described or discovered before they are fished out, while ancient corals and sponges are decimated, with little chance of recovery.

"There are only a small number of nations responsible for this environmental devastation," said Karen Sack, Greenpeace International Oceans Policy Advisor, at the UN. "While they reap rich rewards, the biodiversity of the least protected area of this planet is being wiped out. That is why the United Nations must impose an immediate moratorium on bottom trawling."

VIDEO: See Carmen Gravatt and the Greenpeace team tracking bottom trawlers from on board the Rainbow Warrior

Windows Media, 4.4MB, 1min48secs

Real Media, 4.2MB, 1min48secs

Quicktime, 8MB, 1min48secs

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