Did you know that the New Zealand Government has previously issued permits to six bottom trawling vessels - all owned by companies with recent convictions for illegal fishing - and allows them to go out and trawl seamounts in international waters?

These vessels are the only ones that are still causing the destruction of South Pacific biodiversity in this way.

A recent survey found almost 80% of New Zealanders want seamounts to be protected from bottom trawling.

This high seas bottom trawl fishery goes against what most New Zealanders stand for:

  • The fleet is predominantly trawling on areas of seamounts and features, biodiversity hotspots that are home to delicate and ancient coral and sponge communities.

  • New Zealand’s six authorised bottom trawl vessels are the only fleet still bottom trawling in the South Pacific high seas, so we alone could end this destruction.

  • All six vessels belong to companies that have shown they don’t follow the rules - all of them have recent convictions for illegal trawling in protected areas.
Right now, the Government is considering High Seas Permits applications for the next fishing year, 2022 - 2023.

Join us and call on the
Director General of the Ministry of Primary Industries, Ray Smith, not to issue permits to New Zealand bottom trawlers to continue this destruction.

Please sign now!


© Francisco Jesús Navarro Hernández

To: Ray Smith, Director General of the Ministry of Primary Industries

Defend the deep: Stop issuing high seas trawl permits for the South Pacific

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.

Destructive Seabed Trawling

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.

© Malcolm Pullman / Greenpeace