Fish and chips on the high seas

Activists defend deep sea life in New Zealand

Feature story - June 7, 2005
Activists in New Zealand have taken action against a vessel using the most destructive fishing method in the world, bottom trawling. Dodging whole potatoes fired from compressed air guns, and high pressure fire hoses, the activists prevented the New Zealand vessel Ocean Reward from destroying deep-sea life.

Greenpeace activists disrupt the setting of a bottom trawl net by attaching an inflatable liferaft. The bottom trawl vessel is the 'Ocean Reward' owned by New Zealand company Talley's Fisheries.

Using the Rainbow Warrior and inflatable boats, Greenpeace activistsdisrupted the Ocean Reward from destroying deep sea coral forests that take hundreds of years to grow.  Thevessel was bottom trawling in international waters of the Tasman Sea.

Our activists delayed the vessel from deploying its net by attaching aninflatable life-raft (and dodging potatoes, yes, potatoes, fired byangry trawlermen.)

Our oceans campaigner in New Zealand, Carmen Gravatt, said from onboardthe Rainbow Warrior, "This type of fishing is considered by scientiststo be the greatest threat to deep sea biodiversity and every trawl doesincredible damage.

Bottom trawling nets are dragged along the sea floor. Huge chains orrollers attached to the front of the nets destroy everything in theirpath, including coral forests, as well as sponges, worm tubes, mussels,boulder fields, and rocky reefs. Many species of non-target fish andother deep sea creatures are unintentionally caught as well. Then theyare dumped - dead or dying - over the side.

Last year we documented bottom trawlers hauling up sea stars, rocks andeven endangered black coral, despite fishing industry claims that theirbottom trawling vessels did not touch the seafloor. (We are pretty surethat those rocks weren't floating, guys.)

This week the sixth meeting of the impressively-titled United NationsInformal Consultation on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) getsunderway at the UN in New York. The focus of the meeting ison sustainable fisheries and it is expected that the demand for a UNmoratorium on high seas bottom trawling will again be on the table fordiscussion - and if not, we intend to put it there. There is a growingnumber of countries that are moving to support this as the onlyresponsible action to provide immediate protection for deep seabiodiversity.

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