Widespread destruction and fisheries mismanagement in the Northwest Atlantic

Press release - 12 August, 2005
The Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, returned to Halifax today with evidence of deep-sea destruction by high seas bottom trawlers. Greenpeace has collected images and documentation of the damage to deep-sea fish stocks and habitats in the international waters of the Northwest Atlantic.

The Esperanza spent two weeks on the nose and tail of the Grand Banksand the Flemish Cap in international waters. Greenpeace observed 20bottom trawlers (1), and documented the fishing activities of half ofthese. Campaigners boarded five of the trawlers to discuss a UnitedNations moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

"We witnessed example after example of bad management, overfishing, anddestruction of deep-sea life and habitat from heavy fishing gear beingdragged over the seabed. We saw an indifference to the need to protectvulnerable and fragile ecosystems as well as suspect operators, such asthe Lootus II, which are linked to illegal fishing in other parts ofthe globe," said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace International OceansCampaigner.  "If the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization(NAFO) (1) believes that this is the best example of a regionalfisheries management organisation at work, then our ocean ecosystemsare in very serious trouble."

"We witnessed starfish, sponge, capelin, anemones, juvenile redfish andeelpout in the grates of the trawl nets, and as one skipper said, nomatter how much you try and reduce bycatch, the nets cannotdiscriminate which fish they catch," added McDiarmid.

The Spanish trawlers in the Greenland halibut fishery refused todiscard their bycatch while Greenpeace was filming and one vessel theLootus II kept its nets on the bottom for 18 hours to avoid haulingwhile Greenpeace was watching. Greenland halibut is on a 15 yearrebuilding plan, which is already seen by many as too little too late.

"Canada and Norway's call for reform within NAFO is absolutelymeaningless without a moratorium on bottom trawling being in placewhile these changes are discussed, agreed and implemented," said MarkButler of the Ecology Action Centre. "Reform will take time. Timescientists say deep-sea life does not have. Without a moratorium onhigh seas bottom trawling there may be nothing left to manage orprotect."

Greenpeace highlighted the mismanagement by NAFO during actions againstIcelandic, Spanish and Estonian bottom trawlers in the shrimp andGreenland halibut fisheries. The actions exposed the irresponsibleattitude of NAFO and its member states such as Canada.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which usesnon-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmentalproblems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green andpeaceful future.

Other contacts: Andrew Male, Greenpeace Canada Communications Coordinator, + 416-880-2757Racine Tucker-Hamilton, Greenpeace International media officer, +1 202-436-1039

Notes: (1) The 20 trawlers were registered as Lithuanian, Spanish, Estonian, Latvian, Portuguese, Japanese, Portugal and Faroe Islands. (2) Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management Organisation

Exp. contact date: 2005-08-19 00:00:00