Activists are calling on the New Zealand government to ban bottom trawling on seamounts in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and have submitted a report on the dangers of bottom trawling to seamount ecosystems.
The report, compiled by the Deep Dea Conservation Coalition and presented earlier this month to the New Zealand Parliament, reveals that 128 new species were discovered on New Zealand’s or Aotearoa’s seamounts in the past three years – all from bycatch from the bottom trawling industry, and includes statistics on the amount of coral being destroyed by the New Zealand bottom trawling fleet.
According to a statement from the coalition, the main conclusions of the report are:
* “There are hundreds of unprotected seamounts teeming with life in both the New Zealand EEZ and in the wider international waters of the South Pacific. Many of our seamounts are unique, and each can be distinct from neighboring seamounts, meaning a small area of ocean with several seamounts could have entirely unique macroinvertebrate communities.
* “In the past three years in Aotearoa New Zealand, scientists have identified 128 species new to science from fishery bycatch during the course of a marine invertebrate identification project. Many of these species have been found in or around seamounts, which are hotspots of ocean life.
* “Scientists have found that coral samples from the fishing areas included black coral aged up to 2600 years old, and other coral aged between 300 and 500 years old. Orange roughy, the main fish species trawled on seamounts, can itself live to over 220 years old.
* “In the year 2018-2019 alone, just over 14 tonnes of corals were dragged up in bottom trawling nets by New Zealand trawlers. But only a fraction of coral destroyed makes it up to the surface in the net: Scientists have estimated that 14 tonnes of coral in nets would mean 1,515 to 4,769 tonnes were destroyed on the seabed.
* “All of the six New Zealand bottom trawl vessels currently permitted to trawl in the South Pacific high seas belong to companies that have been convicted in the past year of illegally fishing in closed areas, with more prosecutions pending.”
The coalition’s Karli Thomas says:
“These studies confirm that many of our deepwater coral forests have been growing for hundreds or even thousands of years, but a single bottom trawl can destroy them in minutes.
“The Ministry of Primary Industries is busy trying to calculate how many seamounts it’s okay to destroy, to try and justify our fleet’s continued rampage, rather than focussing on ocean protection and our international obligations. It’s time for the Minister to rein them in.”
Check out the full report at savethehighseas.org.