The trawl's in your court

Feature story - July 30, 2006
At the crack of dawn this morning several Greenpeace activists locked themselves to a high seas bottom trawler to prevent it from leaving Port Nelson. Four activists boarded the Chang Xing, locking themselves to the mast and other parts of the vessel.

Nelson 30-July-2006: Two Greenpeace activists aboard Belize flagged Chinese bottom trawler Chang Xing in Port of Nelson, New Zealand. The two activists along with one other attached to the mooring line stopped the vessel from leaving port.

They locked metal braces and a large sculpture of a deep-sea coral to the vessel's stern as a reminder of the deep sea life being destroyed daily by high seas bottom trawlers. They then tied a banner to the stern with the words 'The trawl's in your court NZ'.

In doing so they have done what the Government should be doing: taking strong action against bottom trawlers who destroy unique deep-sea life out in international waters.

The Rainbow Warrior previously encountered the Chinese bottom trawler, Chang Xing, in international waters of the Tasman Sea in 2004. Greenpeace exposed the damage caused by dragging heavy bottom trawl nets across the sea floor by filming and photographing the Chang Xing's crew dump large quantities of unwanted species including lantern sharks, squid, deep-sea kina and endangered black coral.

In November this year, the UN will make final decisions about whether to impose a moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters to halt destruction until scientists can document the areas that need protection and governments can develop the ways and means to protect them.

Since the issue was first raised two years ago, a significant number of Governments have come forward to support a moratorium, like the UK, Brazil, Germany and Sweden.

"New Zealand now needs to come forward and live up to our clean, green reputation on the international political stage - we can and we should now support the moratorium."

A timely incentive for today's Greenpeace action against the Chang Xing came from a UN report released two weeks ago (1), which stated that governments have done nothing to protect deep-sea biodiversity from destructive fishing in international waters.

The UN's Oceans Division report confirmed what we've been saying for some time: The survival of the countless species found in the deep sea is jeopardised by bottom trawlers like the Chang Xing. This gives New Zealand the opportunity to follow its own policies for biodiversity protection and move with the leaders of the advancing tide of international opinion in support of the moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters.