Greenpeace Canada

Greenpeace Canada

July 25, 2005 09:00 ET

Moratorium needed on high seas bottom trawling

Greenpeace casts a net to record deep sea destruction in the Northwest Atlantic Attention: Environment Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor HALIFAX/NOVA SCOTIA--(CCNMatthews - July 25, 2005) - Greenpeace today took aim at the continuing mismanagement of global deep ecosystems by highlighting the ongoing problems in the Northwest Atlantic. In a report released today entitled "NAFO Case Study: The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization: a case study in how RFMOs regularly fail to manage our Oceans" Greenpeace repeated its call for an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

"The report we are launching today shows that after 25 years in operation, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management Organisation (NAFO), has failed to protect marine stocks and in so doing has allowed the destruction of the rich marine ecosystems that have thrived here for thousands of years," said Bruce Cox, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada. "NAFO is bound by red tape, has little punishment for those member countries that break the rules, turns a blind eye to infractions and has absolutely no teeth when it comes to non-member countries that flaunt the rules. It is time for Canada to show some leadership and demand a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling before NAFO's mismanagement takes an irreversible toll."

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) is an international body designed to manage fishing in international waters off the east coast of Canada. This year alone 4 out of 6 species managed by NAFO are under a fishing moratorium because they have been allowed to be fished to such dangerously low levels.

Greenpeace has brought the MV Esperanza to the region to document the activities of the international fishing fleet following a similar tour of the Australian and New Zealand bottom trawl fisheries by the Rainbow Warrior last month. Unfortunately, Canada has consistently opposed a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling, insisting instead that Regional Fisheries Organisations like NAFO can solve the problem.

"We should be supporting efforts to protect high seas diversity and fisheries, not undermining them," said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre. "Unfortunately, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans refuses to recognize the destructive impacts of trawling or dragging, despite the harm this technology has inflicted on the ecosystem, the fish and the fishing communities of Atlantic Canada. Canadians should be embarrassed by their Government's opposition to this moratorium."

Bottom trawlers use weighted underwater nets up to 100 metres wide that are dragged along the sea floor. Huge chains or rollers attached to the front of the nets damage or destroy everything in its path, including highly sensitive cold water coral and sponge forests. Huge numbers of marine species are unintentionally caught in the nets only to be thrown overboard as 'trash'.

"Without some radical changes [which the Greenpeace Case Study outlines], Regional Fisheries Management Organisations such as NAFO will be unable to protect deep sea biodiversity and will continue to struggle to manage their fisheries sustainably," said Martin Willison of Dalhousie University. "An estimated 60% of the world's high seas bottom trawl fishing occurs in the Northwest Atlantic, and most of this is in the NAFO area. In 2005, of the six straddling groundfish stocks managed by NAFO, four are under moratoria as a result of overfishing."

For more information contact:

Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada Executive Director, cell: 416-419-7341
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Canada Communications Coordinator, cell: 416-880-2757
Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre, tel: 902-429-5287, main line: 902-429-2202 IN: ENVIRONMENT, FISHERIES, POLITICS

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