NGO comment on Fisheries plan: there’s nothing transformational about trawling seamounts
Updated: Aug 14
Immediate release 7 August 2023
Environmental groups say the Fishery “Industry Transformation Plan” (FITP) is not transformational, its development was not collaborative, and it amounts to no more than a massive push for taxpayer money to fund new vessels to destroy more ecosystems.
The so-called “transformational” plan is full of delay tactics for the industry to avoid getting its trawlers off the most sensitive areas - seamounts and features - despite almost 80% of New Zealanders wanting this destructive form of fishing banned there. Instead of doing that, the plan sets up three years of trawling “research” to try and come up with less destructive trawling methods.
“The industry has had decades to develop less destructive trawling methods, and yet they’re still dragging heavy nets over corals. The truth is there’s no such thing as “good” bottom trawling. This plan just gives the industry permission to continue along this path of destruction for another three years” - Karli Thomas, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition New Zealand.
Reducing adverse impacts on the ocean floor to “the maximum extent practicable” would mean stopping bottom trawling. The vast majority of submissions on the draft FITP called for exactly this - an end date to bottom trawling and no subsidies to new trawlers and dredgers. However, both these things have been pushed through in the final plan anyway.
The plan ignores the government’s benthic stakeholder forum that’s been running since early last year that should have seen recommendations out for public consultation months ago. That process was in response to a petition from over 50,000 people (now more than 80,000) calling for an end to bottom trawling on seamounts and similar features.
The FITP still leaves the door open for government subsidies to new fishing vessels, something all the environmental submitters opposed. This could include seabed-wrecking trawlers and dredgers - a potential subsidy of the bottom trawling industry.
“This announced intention to investigate subsidies for new bottom trawling vessels is extraordinary when New Zealand has been leading the fight against fishing subsidies internationally and only last year signed onto a WTO Agreement on subsidies,” said DSCC international legal adviser Duncan Currie.
The plan was not a “collaborative” process with environmental groups, instead it was dominated by the fishing industry, Fisheries NZ officials and ex-officials, some now working for the industry.
“This is the fishing industry's plan. The fisheries Minister appears to have been misled by officials into thinking that the FITP was a “collaborative” effort with environmental organisations. That is a false and misleading claim,” said Cath Wallace of ECO. “Most of the environmental impacts New Zealanders want dealing with have not been included.”
The New Zealand fishing industry is dragging the chain. We’re the only country still trawling in the South Pacific, and over 200 tonnes of coral has been reported dragged up by our bottom trawl fleet in the past 13 years. (1) This is only a small indication of the impact that occurs on the seafloor.
“New Zealanders have simply had enough of this rampant destruction, and the majority of submissions on this plan called for an end date to bottom trawling. But the plan completely ignores them and pushes ahead with trawling-as-usual. The only thing this plan will transform is our ocean environment - from coral gardens to broken rubble,” concluded Karli Thomas.
Contact: Karli Thomas 021 905 582
Duncan Currie 021 632 335
Cath Wallace 021 891 994
Media: Cindy Baxter 021 772 661