UN fails to protect deep seas

Feature story - 12 June, 2004
They already had the opinion of thousands of scientists and a coalition of environment and wildlife groups. Then we gave them a petition signed by over 6000 cyberactivists. If that wasn't enough, the Rainbow Warrior documented actual hard evidence of the destruction of protected species in the Tasman Sea and beamed it all the way to New York. But still, the UN has this week failed to seize a crucial opportunity to halt high-seas bottom trawling.

Unwanted bycatch, including a starfish, far outweighs the target catch of orange roughy in a deep sea trawl from international waters in the Tasman Sea. Greenpeace along with more than a thousand scientists are supporting the call for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, because of the vast amount of marine life that is destroyed by this fishing method.

"They had a real opportunity to act and they failed," said Karen Sack of Greenpeace. "We need immediate action to save the deep sea from being bulldozed by fishing vessels from a handful of countries."

Several delegations blocked moves to prohibit high seas bottom trawling - the world's most destructive fishing practice - under pressure from fisheries ministries in their countries. Iceland and Japan were particularly vocal in opposition. The measure was replaced with a weak recommendation that nations "consider" an interim prohibition.

These discussions were all taking place at this week's UN meeting in New York which had the power to recommend an immediate halt on bottom trawling to the UN General Assembly. Greenpeace members were out in force distributing footage from the Rainbow Warrior showing the devastating effects of bottom trawling and ensuring that the opinions of our cyberactivists were visible even in the corridors.

It's not all bad though - governments from virtually every region of the world expressed support for a prohibition on bottom trawling. Particularly strong calls for action to halt bottom trawling were made by Norway, Thailand, Costa Rica, the Republic of Palau, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Of course, this is not the last you've heard on bottom trawling, we will be continuing our defence of the millions of rare, protected and undiscovered species in the deep sea, so stay tuned ...

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