Deep-sea fisheries
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The comments presented are from interested people wishing to express their views, pass on information, and participate in discussion on various environmental issues.  Their comments are not necessarily the opinion of TerraNature, and may not represent a position TerraNature takes.

Deep-sea conservation

Related TerraNature Article:
Kermadec Ridge mineral prospecting:
Deepsea exploitation without review

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The mere thought of dredging for minerals on ocean seafloor is preposterous.  It will be just as damaging as bottom trawling. The seamounts have become real targets for destructive exploitation - first bottom trawling and now mining. Mining before science has the chance to discover the unique ecosystems of seamounts is as barbaric as cutting and burning the kauri forests by our ancestors in the 19th century and before.  Georgina Wilson, Auckland  30 May 2005

The article revealing Neptune Resources prospecting on the Kermadec Ridge is a real shock.  It looks like the government has got itself into another difficult situation where it will be obliged to issue a mining licence, when nobody seems to know how to get the minerals to the surface.
Tommy Delgado, Christchurch  30 May 2005

Where has the information on mineral prospecting on the Kermadec Ridge been hidden for so long.  The Ministry of Economic Development has obviously not been interested in publicising it.  I wonder why.  We need to watch closely to keep a check on the next move by the Ministry and Neptune Resources.
Sarah Roberts, Wellington  28 May 2005

What an unbelieveable thing - to give one company such broad rights to prospect for minerals over such a large area of ocean.  It seems the Minister of Energy has given away the farm.  I would like to know what recourse there is to force a public environmental review process, should Neptune Resources proceed to obtain a mining licence.
Robert Coleman, Auckland  14 May 2005

Deep-sea fisheries

Related TerraNature Article:
Government response to bottom trawling is not good enough: An immediate moratorium is needed
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Why is it that the Department of Conservation has been conspicuously absent from any research within the NZ Exclusive Economic Zone.  DOC has been involved with research expeditions in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, and on the Lord Howe Ridge with the Australian government, but nothing within New Zealand ocean territory.  Of course there has been no conservation action in the EEZ either.  While DOC does nothing, IGNS (Institute for Geological and Nuclear Sciences) is going to the Kermadec Ridge on a regular basis to find the potential for the mining industry.
Robert Coleman, Auckland  9 April 2005

Is a video absolutely necessary?  I know it would have a vivid impact on people, but for me it is pretty easy to imagine the nets full of fish, the cables and the trawl gear dragging across the bottom of the ocean crashing everything growing above the seafloor and churning up everything below it.
Graeme Roberts, Auckland  3 February 2005

It would be great to show live bottom trawling action with video, not only to the New Zealand public but the whole world.  It would not be that difficult to do.  The tricky part is getting someone to do it.
Mick Taylor, San Francisco  23 January 2005

Ted Armstrong is quite right, but the fishers will never show anyone what bottom trawling looks like.  It could be shown by the Ministry of Fisheries with one of the NIWA research vessels, but there again they may not want to show how damaging it looks either.  There would be such strong public opposition once people see how destructive it is, it would kill the fishing industry.  Arty David, San Francisco  14 January 2005

The fishing industry claims that new bottom trawling gear causes less damage on the seafloor.  This is hard to believe.  The industry needs to be held accountable by showing the impact of trawl gear.  It could be easily done with video.  Other industries on land have to show the environmental impact they cause, even on their privately owned property.  Why should fishers not have to, for seafloor they do not own.
Ted Armstrong, Otahuhu  9 January 2005

It would be great if the government disclosed the extent of bottom trawling.  The problem would be quickly solved because there would be such strong public objection.  But the Minister of Fisheries will never do this because he will not take action that would kill a major New Zealand export industry.
Michael Jones, Hamilton  4 January 2005

Thanks for highlighting the issue of bottom trawling.  As an "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" problem, we need to make both the industry and the government aware that current practice is not acceptable.
Doug Downs, Hamilton  26 December 2004

It is shocking to me that environmental destruction of the magnitude of bottom trawling can happen in the 21st century.  The New Zealand settlers of the 19th century were ignorant of the need and benefit of conservation.  We are not.  We know what a great loss rampant cutting and burning of the kauri forests was.  The same disregard for 2000 year-old kauri, now for coral species that are hundreds of years old that we have not even seen, is the greatest environmental sin.
Sarah Roberts, Wellington  15 December 2004

While the government pisses around discussing policies and negotiating agreements, the coral keeps on getting flattened.  A moratorium is absolutely essential.
Tommy Delgado, Christchurch  15 December 2004

The announcement by the three Cabinet Ministers on September 24 is another display of the relationship between the Ministry of Fisheries and the fishing industry.  The planned actions by the government do not appear to be genuine.  What they propose will take the usual eternity, and meanwhile the fishers will continue to destroy irreplaceable deepsea habitat.  The suggestion of "volunteer" actions by the fishing industry, which was the approach with seabird killing, is once again inappropriate, and another sign of whitewashing the problem to let the industry off the hook.  Graeme Roberts, Auckland  21 October 2004

Deep-sea fisheries

Related TerraNature Article:
Scientists call for deep-sea coral
protection: Ban on bottom trawling needed

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It is about time for the Minister of Fisheries to tell the truth to the New Zealand public about the extent of deepsea bottom trawling. The secrecy that is protecting the fishing industry from a public outcry must end.
John Scott, Auckland  17 October 2004

When Greens Party Leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons sought support in Parliament for a United Nation's moratorium on bottom trawling, she held up a 5 foot tall piece of cold water coral, and asked Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope "Is he concerned that New Zealand is one of 11 nations still bottom-trawling and that this has obliterated forever this 1,000 year old gorgonian octo-coral".  "Everything in the path of these weighted nets is obliterated" she said.  In his reply Mr Benson-Pope said there was no doubt bottom trawling could be destructive "but the extent of that is the subject of substantial debate".  The total extent may be debatable but there is no argument against the fact that bottom trawling has covered a very large area. While not all damage is recorded, reported trawls show a massive area that has been trawled.  New Zealand must stop bottom trawling, and must call on the United Nations for a moratorium.
Sarah Roberts, Wellington  6 September 2004

I am ashamed of the New Zealand government with its two-faced approach to ocean conservation.  How can government go after foreign fishers when it lets the New Zealand fishing industry get away with murder.  Protectionism has become very apparent.  It is about time something is done about deep-sea coral destruction and depletion of fish populations.  Carly Simmons, Wellington  26 July 2004

In June, the Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope, approved a plan that will combat illegal domestic and high seas fishing.  This is fine - to control foreign fishing boats and allow effective management of fisheries.  But what about control of New Zealand fishing boats.  The Minister says "The sustainability of global fisheries resources is one of the key environmental challenges that face the international community in the next decade". This statement is contradicted by the Ministry of Fisheries' refusal to stop bottom trawling by the New Zealand fishing industry - the most destructive fishing practice that is in no way sustainable because it destroys the habitat fish need to regenerate.  Good on the Ministry for taking on foreign fishing, but could this be protection for New Zealand fishing companies.  Even so, the MOF should be paying more attention to banning destructive fishing by New Zealand companies.
Mick Taylor, San Francisco  8 July 2004

It is shocking to find that so much destruction of deepsea coral is going on without the Ministry of Fisheries or the Department of Conservation saying very much about it.  The Ministry's action to close fishing on 19 isolated, independent seamounts is rather pathetic.  I have not seen any evidence that this is being enforced.  They will not put observers on board fishing vessels, so it seems impractical and ineffective otherwise.
Eileen Scott, Auckland  27 April 2004

The deepsea corals are out-of-this-world stunningly beautiful.  It is such a pity we cannot see them live. But the pictures speak a thousand words, and are the next best thing to make us aware of the need to protect coral.  Seeing these images opens the intrigue for all sorts of different creatures that we could never imagine, that must be down there. I will do whatever I can to support the protection of these incredible environments.
Sarah Roberts, Wellington  20 March 2004

I have just one thing to say to the Ministry of Fisheries on the subject of sustaining deepsea benthic habitat - DO SOMETHING!
Tommy Delgado, Christchurch  20 March 2004

Once again, I am amazed and flabbergasted at what I am learning about the deep-sea.  Where has all this information been hidden?  Thank you TerraNature for making us aware.  The deep-sea corals are magnificent and must absolutely be protected within marine reserves of a meaningful size.  Georgina Wilson, Auckland  6 March 2004

The governments attending the Convention on Biological Diversity have to pass a resolution to get the General Assembly of the United Nations to adopt a moratorium on deep-sea bottom trawling.  This is the best hope to stop the destruction of cold water coral, as is seems governments are not going to do it on their own as long as they are supporting their fishing industries.  Peter Callum, Wellington  17 February 2004

Deep-sea fisheries

Related TerraNature Article:
Rough seas for orange roughy: Popular U.S. fish import in jeopardy, says World Wildlife Fund

The truth about the quota system is now being exposed - when the hoki fishing companies stop fishing voluntarily it is obvious the fishery has been overfished.  The New Zealand quota does not seem to have been very effective in stopping decline, and doesn't seem to mean very much.
Sarah Roberts, Wellington  28 August 2004

It is a lot of work keeping up with the actions of the Ministry of Fisheries and the fishing industry.  The first quota decision of new Minister David Benson-Pope is particularly disturbing.  He has kept the southern blue whiting quota in the Southern Ocean the same at 25,000 tonnes after the Ministry first advised a reducton to 15-20,000 tonnes, but then changed this advice.  According to the Minister, new stock assessments followed the advice.  He said the science was "challenged by the fishery (industry)".  The Minister is giving the industry a handout in the face of looming hoki reductions, with an increase in the squid quota from 44,000 to 57,000 tonnes.  The Minister has justified his decisions by "trying to strike a balance between good development of the resource and employment and economic issues".  The Minister's first responsibility is the protection of fishery resources, not keeping the fishing industry happy.  History shows continued declines, so if a decision has to be made based on questionable data, the conclusion should favour sustainability of the resource.  If that decision turns out to be wrong it is easier to raise the quota later, rather than suffer further damage to the resource that could be irreparable.  Strangely, Mr Benson-Pope agrees with this, and contradicts his quota decision, saying that if scientific assessments of stocks were in doubt, decisions would be "conservative".  He stated "I will come down on the side of protecting the resource rather than allowing fishing levels that may be risky."
Michael Jones, Hamilton  23 May 2004

It is no surprise that the Herald reports on the severe decline in hoki and snapper, and likely reduction in fishing quotas.  It is obvious that for a long time the Ministry of Fisheries has been lowering the quota as catches decline, instead of setting quotas based on surveys, and take levels needed to achieve sustainability.  Maybe the new Minister of Fisheries will realise that there will be no $1.2 billion fishing industry if current declines continue, and that the quota management system is not working.  But watch the phone lines to the Ministry light up as the fishing industry tries to hold on to quotas - fish or no fish.
Michael Jones, Hamilton  22 May 2004

It is interesting to see that Nelson fishing boats have been tied up in port, due to hoki fisherman being unable to meet quotas, and the high value of the NZ dollar affecting exports, according to the fishing companies.  It will be more interesting to see if this down cycle continues, which, if it does, will be a pretty good indication of overfishing.  It will then be even more interesting to see if the Ministry of Fisheries lowers the hoki quota later this year.  It seems the quota is reduced when there are smaller catches, instead of the quota causing smaller catches.
Tommy Delgado, Christchurch  20 March 2004

At the Deep-Sea 2003 conference, Ministry of Fisheries Chief Scientist, Dr John Annala, fended off "scare tactics by Australian environmentalists" by claiming that "New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that continues to harvest orange roughy sustainably" and that "orange roughy is one of the true success stories of the quota management system".  This promotion in the interest of the fishing industry has of course been extended by the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (November 28 2003 press release).  What the Ministry and Council do not mention, is the destruction of cold water coral by bottom trawling, which is the principal method of catching orange roughy.  Bottom trawling nets have smashed and raked up thousands of tons of coral, including coral trees that were 5 metres tall and thousands of years old.  As trawling over the same area has continued, the quantities of coral in nets has reduced, indicating there is not much left on the seabed.  As the Ministry of Fisheries and the fishing industry defend the virtues of sustainable deep-sea fishing, they ignore, or fail to mention the fact that the habitat of the fish that are allegedly making a comeback, is being destroyed.  The destruction of deep-sea biodiversity by overexploitation from fishing is comparable to the destruction of the kauri forests on land more than a century ago.  The kauri loggers at least had the excuse of not knowing about the long term impact of the loss of biodiversity, whereas the fishers of today do not.  The government is aware of coral destruction from NIWA surveys, but have only acted to close 19 seamounts to fishing and not all of these have been damaged or are being fished.  What is inexcusable is the lack information that is made available to the public, so the deep-sea remains out of sight and out of mind to most, while fishing companies quietly carry on with their destruction.  As coastal fisheries the world over have been overfished, and the industry has moved into the deep ocean, it seems New Zealand is no different in making sure the fishing industry and the benefit of fishing to the national economy are protected.
C.K. Little, Oakland, California  18 February 2004

The collaboration of the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation with the fishing industry through the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust is a conflict of interest, as the Ministry currently investigates the alleged misreporting of fish catch from five fishing companies. The SSS Trust was formed to promote voluntary mitigation measures by longline fishers to prevent seabird bycatch.  The Trust conflicts with the government's ability to enforce fishing laws and regulations.  This method of working with industry is no different than forming a trust that has the defendant and the prosecutor in a criminal case as trustees.  It is necessary for the Ministry of Fisheries to separate itself from all matters involving the fishing companies it is obligated to regulate.  Carly Simmons, Wellington  18 February 2004

With much regret, I have taken orange roughy off the menu.  It is a pity because it is such a great tasting fish, and a great export for New Zealand. The fisheries people need to get their fish quotas in order. It is hard to see how a fish that lives 150 years and takes so long to reach breeding age, can be sustainable with the number of fish being caught.  The Ministry of Fisheries and the fishers have not done a very convincing job of showing us how they have determined the current fish count.
Arty David, San Francisco, California  15 February 2004

Thank you TerraNature for the report on orange roughy.  These articles on environmental issues are very informative and interesting, if not disturbing.  I shamefully admit I knew absolutely nothing about the deep ocean or seamounts.  Please keep the information flowing on this really fascinating stuff.  It is what everyone needs to know.
Georgina Wilson, Auckland  13 February 2004

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Photo Credit -  Center 3rd from bottom: Crynoid, NOAA Fisheries
Center 4th from bottom: Brothers seamount black smoker, JAMSTEC
Right second from top: Wheat, Ian Britton Copyright ©

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