During Seaweek, an annual organization promoting ocean education and sustainable practices, the New Zealand Green party penned an open letter to the Minister for the Environments, Hon David Parker, demanding a ban on bottom trawling. The letter which received over 6 000 signatures, articulates that for the sake of the ocean, New Zealand fisheries must stop bottom trawling practices on seamounts and other vulnerable areas under the New Zealand Economic Zone. This comes a year after 50 000 New Zealanders signed a petition to stop bottom trawling.

Prawn Ttrawler off the coast of Australia dragging a net through the seabed

Bottom trawling, a brutal fishing method

Bottom trawling is the act of pulling a heavy-weighted fishing net through the bottom of the ocean floor. This results in a non-selective catch, as anything could end up in the net. Bottom Trawling has other serious negative impacts. This fishing method mainly targets elevated sea beds in the ocean, called seamounts. It destroys the seafloor habitat by destroying structure-forming organisms such as corals. It also displaces an enormous amount of sediment from the ocean floor. Comparatively, this quantity roughly equals the annual amount of sediment fed to oceans by rivers worldwide. Ultimately, it decreases sunlight received for photosynthesis, changes habitat chemistry, and removes nutrients.

Concerns about this method have been around for several hundred years. The first recorded concerns on the damage caused by this method go as far back as the 14th century. In 1376, early bottom trawling methods were addressed in the English Parliament due to their damaging effects. Depressingly, the arguments made in 1376 against bottom trawling have not changed – industrial fishing for animal feed, the use of small mesh size, and impact on the wider environment. The equipment has since improved for environmental reasons. It is unfortunate that it remains the most popular fishing method but not very surprising considering bottom trawling catches 30 million tons a year.

A global matter

Green Party Spokesperson and previous Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, wrote:

“Our Oceans are the lifeblood of our planet…Over decades, successive governments here in Aotearoa New Zealand have let our oceans be overfished and exploited for short-term economic gain”

From the open letter written by Eugenie Sage

There have been previous attempts of banning bottom trawling. Jim Anderton, Prime Minister of New Zealand, stated in 2006 that he would support a ban worldwide if there was sufficient support to make that a practical option. In that same year, the United Nations attempted to globally ban bottom trawling. However, it failed as fishing nations led by Iceland and Russia blocked UN negotiators from imposing a full-fledge ban.

“Bottom Trawling destroys centuries-old communities of deep-sea corals, sea sponges, and other marine lifeThese precious ecosystems will take centuries to recover – if at all” said Eugenie Sage continued in her statements. As the source of protein for over 3 billion people on earth, fishing methods must become sustainable, and it must occur quickly.

Alexander Ramette

Alexander Ramette graduated from Concordia University with a BSc in Environmental Science in Montreal and would like to pursue a career in Environmental Engineering. Alexander grew up in Paris during his childhood and his adolescence in Iceland. His passion includes the natural sciences, the outdoors, and surfing.

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