Greenpeace to UN: no more bare bottoms

Feature story - 16 November, 2004
Latest Update: what happened at the UNSecurity was tight and fidgety. The cameras were ready to record the moment. Our Greenpeace activist was camouflaged to blend in to her surroundings. She had borne witness to an environmental crime: the bulldozing of fragile ocean seamounts. And she was in the presence of people who could do something about it. At the appointed moment, she leapt into the spotlight to demand action, not words.

Greenpeace appeal against sea bottom trawling at the United Nations.

Had she been aboard our ship Esperanza in the North Atlantic over the last few months, or the Rainbow Warrior in the Southern Pacific earlier this year, she might have stopped a trawling vessel from ploughing over rare corals or delayed, at least for a few hours, the wholesale destruction of an irreplaceable habitat.

Unfortunately, she was in the hallowed halls of the UN, where some countries with an interest in deep sea plunder strongly prefer words over action.

Our speech to the UN was on the occassion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: one of the most important efforts at protection of the global commons ever achieved.

In the run up to today's debate about how to better protect our ocean environment, we and the other members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition have been showing graphic evidence -- in photographs, video, and scientific reports, that high seas bottom trawling is the most destructive practice impacting deep sea life.

High seas bottom trawling literally ploughs up the ocean floor for relatively few fish. The fleets often target seamounts - the least explored mountains on the planet, that rise more than a 1,000 metres from the ocean floor. Seamounts are teeming with deep sea life, some of which is undiscovered by science and much is unique to individual seamounts. We know more about Mars than we know about some of these habitats.

Yet our pleas have been ignored. Instead an international call from the Convention on Biological Diversity to the UN for urgent action has been watered down to a call for a review in two years time.

"The interests of the few bottom trawling nations have won out over science and common sense," said our policy advisor Karen Sack at the UN. "There are deep sea species that are still unknown to science and yet the commercial interests of a few are considered more important. Who knows how many of those species could be wiped out while the politicians sit back reviewing."

More information

Read more about the Rainbow Warrior's work to expose bottom trawling in the Pacific, and the efforts of the intrepid Esperanza crew against one of the most destructive fishing practices in the world.

Read more about bottom trawling

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