18 Nov 2020

Bottom trawling petition delivered to Parliament

4:20 pm on 18 November 2020

A cohort of environmental groups have delivered a 50,000-strong petition to Parliament, wanting the government to ban bottom trawling on seamounts.

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Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Thousands of names were presented to minister for oceans and fisheries, David Parker, and Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage on a giant model of bubblegum coral - a species found on New Zealand seamounts.

Those who arrived at Parliament today included members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO), Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, LegaSea, Our Seas Our Future and WWF New Zealand.

ECO spokesperson Barry Weeber said while New Zealand's fishing industry was continuing to bottom trawl sensitive areas, the rest of the world had mostly banned it.

"We need to catch up, and stop trashing the oceans to fill supermarket freezers," he said.

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Mandy Kupenga said self-regulation of the fishing fleet had not worked, with a company only last week being found guilty of illegally bottom trawling inside a marine reserve.

"The government needs to step in and regulate in order to protect our marine environment for all New Zealanders," she said.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said now was the time for the government to act.

"We have a new government, with a new ministerial portfolio that marries oceans and fisheries, signalling a big shift in thinking.

"But the real test of the government's intentions will come with how it deals with this issue, because we cannot have sustainable oceans if we have bottom trawling," he said.

Sage said the party was committing to work with Labour this term to ensure better protections for oceans.

"Without New Zealand First in the tent hindering progress, we hope to work constructively with Labour to improve fisheries management and ramp up protections of our oceans," she said.

Sage said seamounts were hugely important marine habitats and for healthy fisheries.

"Bottom trawling causes major and long term damage on these underwater mountains.

"Heavy nets dragging across seamounts trashes precious deep sea corals that have taken hundreds of years to form, these ecosystems do not bounce back from this fishing damage."

WWF New Zealand chief exeuctive Livia Esterhazy said deep sea corals were taonga and could take thousands of years to grow.

"If you can imagine it's like a mighty kauri tree and bottom trawling basically rips everything out in its path, it's completely destructive," she said.

Once the trawling went through an area, it became a dead zone, Esterhazy said.

New Zealand was one of two only countries in the South Pacific that continued to practice seabed trawling, she said.

After receiving the petition, Parker said the government was yet to make a decision on bottom trawling.

"We didn't go to the election with a promise to ban bottom trawling, obviously there are some legitimate concerns about the adverse environmental effects of bottom trawling, there are new technologies that are coming and I'm quite happy to look at the issue carefully," he said.