Page - December 18, 2006
Bottom trawling clearfells the ancient coral forests of the deep-sea.

12-06-2005, West Norfolk Ridge, Tasman Sea: A 400 year old Paragorgia coral being hauled aboard the New Zealand bottom trawler Waipori.

Bottom trawl nets are enormous.

The biggest bottom trawl nets that hit the sea floor have mouths as wide as the length of a rugby field and are three storeys high.

Weighted across the bottom with heavy steel rollers that indiscriminately smash and crush corals, they swallow everything in their path.

To apply the same method on land would be like dragging a massive net across entire fields, cities and forests in the hope of catching a few cows.

When hauled onboard, ever-decreasing catches of over-exploited orange roughy and oreo spill across the deck, and so too does the trawl 'trash'.

No one knows how long it takes for these communities to recover, or even if they can. Very little is known of deep-sea fish biology, but it is all too apparent that the fish populations, like the ecosystem, are collapsing.

Some New Zealand populations have been overfished to the brink of extinction.

Armed with acoustic fish-finders and satellite technology, bottom trawling is now happening at greater depths than ever before around New Zealand and around the world.