Environmental and recreational fishing groups have slammed the government’s draft Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan at a public meeting today, saying the plan does nothing to tackle the threat of destructive bottom trawling. 

The draft plan, released last month, is pitched as setting the long-term vision for New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry, yet it does not contain details to transition away from bottom trawl fishing – the most destructive type of commercial fishing.

Concerned groups Greenpeace, Forest & Bird, LegaSea and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition attended a public meeting in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland today to call for stronger action for the ocean.

“This plan is a missed opportunity to start the transition away from destructive bottom trawling –  a fishing method proven to cause incredible damage to the ocean and the life within it,” says Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Ellie Hooper.

“Despite its name, there is nothing transformational about this plan – it reads like the government plans to throw millions of dollars at tweaking bottom trawling when they know what they should do is  transition away from this destructive method.”

Trish Rea from LegaSea says they’re concerned about the millions of dollars earmarked in the plan to buy new vessels for the commercial fleet. At the public meeting on Wednesday, Fisheries New Zealand could not deny this may be spent on new trawlers.

“The oceans are in trouble and if the government thinks that subsidising the industry to get new fishing vessels is the answer, they’ve been asking the wrong question to the wrong people.”

Karli Thomas of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition says: “It is crystal clear that bottom trawling is not the future of fishing. We need it out of sensitive areas immediately, and a clear deadline to get all trawl nets off the seabed.

“Instead we’re being presented a plan that is basically the status quo plus taxpayer subsidies for industry.”

Bianca Ranson, Hauraki Gulf Campaigner at Forest & Bird, says: “It is too destructive to continue, has high rates of bycatch and destroys habitats on the seafloor. Closer to home, Fisheries New Zealand has studies that identify the effect of bottom trawling in the resuspension of stored carbon in the sediment into the marine environment.”

More than 80,000 people have signed petitions calling for an end to bottom trawling on seamounts, and almost 80% of people surveyed in an Horizon poll last year said the same . Groups presented the petition at Parliament in the first month of this term of government, and are urging the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Rachel Brooking to get the job done before this year’s election.

84% of people living around the Hauraki Gulf say they want bottom trawling banned from the marine park, with hundreds turning out at a Mission Bay protest in April to call for an end to bottom trawl methods.

“The public mandate for change is clear,” says Ranson. 

“Now it’s time for the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries to listen and ban bottom trawl methods to protect ocean health for the future. We can have a fishing industry we are proud of – but things have got to change.”

PETITION: Ban bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf

Call upon the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to ban all forms of mobile bottom-contact fishing including bottom trawling, scallop dredging and Danish seining within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

Sign the petition