A new report showing that commercial fishing ripped up almost 200 tonnes of coral from the seafloor in a 13  year period demonstrates why destructive bottom trawling should be urgently banned from seamounts, say environmentalists. 

“Coral is absolutely essential to ocean health”,  says Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper. “It forms the basis for a range of complex and interconnected ecosystems, providing feeding and breeding grounds for fish and even larger marine mammals such as whales”

This report confirms what we already know, that bottom trawling is an indiscriminate and destructive fishing method that is lethal to coral – laying waste to the building blocks of ocean life.”

Over the time period covered by this report, bottom trawling methods pulled up almost 200 tonnes of coral and were responsible for 99% of total coral ‘bycatch’. 

“These numbers are shocking, but are only the tip of the iceberg,” says Hooper.

As the draft report highlights, the current methods for calculating the amount of coral hauled up by nets is inconsistent, ranging from fishers “eyeballing” coral catch to observers weighing coral on some boat trips. 

“We do not have full observer coverage on New Zealand commercial fishing vessels – in fact for this period less than 30% of deep sea bottom trawling trips were observed. So the actual coral bycatch figure will be far higher.” 

In addition, most of the coral destroyed by the heavy, weighted trawl nets doesn’t 

make it up in the nets – with most of it remaining on the seabed. While it’s not an exact science, for every tonne of coral caught in the net, scientists calculate 108 to 340 times that amount is smashed on the seafloor. *

Karli Thomas from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, says the solutions are very clear.

“We already have the solution: ban bottom trawling from where it does the most damage, starting urgently with seamounts and features where slow-growing, and ancient coral species thrive and support a myriad of marine life,” she says.

“Thanks to NIWA scientists we now have up-to-date data on the locations of 1,996 seamounts and features in Aotearoa waters. The government and industry claim they want to “use data to fish with care and precision” – well here is their chance to do just that, by closing those sites to trawling.

“The public mandate for change is clear. Polling shows that the vast majority of New Zealanders oppose bottom trawling on seamounts – with almost 80% agreeing it should be banned. More than 80,000 people have signed petitions calling for the same.

“We can have a fishing industry we are proud of and a thriving ocean full of life – but there is no place for bottom trawling in this future. We’ve already got the locations of seamounts and features within New Zealand waters – these must be closed to avoid the scale of coral bycatch we’re seeing now.” 

“But in the fishing industry ‘transformation plan’ proposed by the government, there’s no mention of doing this in order to protect marine life.”

Says Hooper: “We don’t have the luxury of time to wait, 200 tonnes of biodiversity destruction should be enough for the government to act now.

“It’s time to ban bottom trawling from seamounts so that the ocean has a chance to recover and thrive.”  

NZ trawler dumps huge coral bottom trawling
PETITION: Ban bottom trawling on seamounts

Join the call to demand that the NZ Govt bans bottom trawling on seamounts and similar deep sea features, and stop issuing permits for bottom trawling in international waters.

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