To: Ray Smith, Director General of the Ministry of Primary Industries
Tena koe Ray Smith,
Aotearoa is currently the only country bottom trawling seamounts in the international waters of the South Pacific. As such, New Zealand fishing vessels are responsible for the destruction of vulnerable deep-sea coral forests - biodiversity hotspots that support the health of the ocean.
All six of the New Zealand bottom trawl ships currently with High Seas Permits are owned by companies that have recent convictions for illegal trawling in closed areas. Those include internationally closed areas, benthic protection areas and even a precious marine reserve near Kaikōura.
This destruction should not be allowed to continue. It is in this Government’s power right now to deny new high seas permits, and effectively end bottom trawling on seamounts in the South Pacific.
Aotearoa is lagging behind on this issue. New Zealand continues to allow bottom trawling on vulnerable ecosystems, while other nations have stopped.
We know that seamounts are in need of protection. Deep sea corals are slow growing and fragile, making them highly vulnerable to damage from bottom trawling. These seamounts perform a vital role in the functioning of the ocean, providing habitat for juvenile fish, and feeding areas for ocean giants such as humpback whales.
By refusing to reissue these permits, the Government could prevent destruction of deep sea habitats in the South Pacific, something 79% of New Zealanders polled want to see.
New Zealand must work to conserve the treasures of the South Pacific deep sea, rather than being the only country still trashing these biodiversity hotspots with trawl nets.
Fishing companies drag heavily weighted nets across the seabed to catch fish like orange roughy and in the process they can destroy entire communities of marine life. New research shows that even after 15 years, heavily trawled seamounts have not even begun to recover.
New Zealand is now the only country in the South Pacific to continue this outdated fishing practice. And all six New Zealand bottom trawl vessels currently permitted to trawl in the South Pacific high seas belong to companies that have been convicted in the past year of illegally fishing in closed areas.