Greenpeace is calling on the New Zealand Government to urgently regulate commercial fisheries, following a new report that shows they caught 58 protected sea turtles in the last year alone.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) report, released this week, shows that New Zealand’s sea turtle bycatch tripled in the fishing year 2020 – 2021, based on the previous decade average. The majority of the turtles caught were critically endangered leatherback turtles. 

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper called on the Government to step in and regulate commercial fisheries.

“This report shows that New Zealand fisheries caught 58 turtles in one fishing year – that’s a number that would have closed the fishery if it were operating in a country like the United States, one of the biggest importers of seafood from New Zealand.

“But in New Zealand, there is no such limit. Commercial fishing here can catch protected species in huge numbers, and no action is taken. That goes for these turtles and for protected corals too.

“Despite this shocking number of turtle captures, New Zealand officials have previously argued that no additional measures were necessary to address turtle bycatch in Aotearoa, and have argued to have the fishing industry’s impacts noted as ‘minimal.’”

In Hawaii, an annual limit of 16 leatherback turtle captures is enough to close the fishery for the rest of the year. 

Hooper says this is yet more proof the New Zealand Government has its head in the sand on commercial fishing.

The DOC report has been released in the same week New Zealand representatives are attending the UNGA workshop in New York on bottom trawling, where they are advocating an approach that would see seamount ecosystems legally destroyed. 

“Rather than admit that New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry urgently needs to change, the Government continues to defend them, talking a big game on the world stage and hoping our clean and green image precedes us internationally.

“But the facts are very clear. New Zealand commercial fishing is killing endangered wildlife at a much higher rate than what’s accepted overseas.

“Commercial fishing has all but wiped out our smallest native dolphin. They’re catching endangered turtles at a rate of knots. And they’re trashing protected coral in our own backyard, Australian waters and the South Pacific.

“Enough of the rhetoric. How much of the amazing biodiversity we have in Aotearoa has to die before the government acts?”