Safeguarding undersea mountains
Thursday, 7 September 2000
Nineteen deepwater seamounts around New Zealand are being closed to bottom trawl fishing to safeguard the marine life and habitats they support, Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson announced today.
"Scientific studies show that marine life on seamounts is diverse and vulnerable to the impacts of bottom trawling," Mr Hodgson said. "A number of species found on seamounts are long-lived, slow-growing and slow to reproduce. Many are thought to be rare or unique to New Zealand waters. Many new species are yet to be scientifically described and it is likely that many remain to be discovered.
"Closing these 19 seamounts to bottom trawling will safeguard a representative sample of seamount environments. This will give marine scientists the opportunity to learn more about the biological diversity of these deepwater habitats and ecosytems."
While all of the seamounts closed have the potential to be fished, most have had little or no fishing history. The closure of a few seamounts that have been fished opens the possibility of comparative research on the environmental impact of fishing.
The chosen seamounts were identified by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) according to a draft seamount management strategy developed by the Ministry of Fisheries. They are either representative of others in their area - in their geology or biology, for example - or are unique features in New Zealand waters. Their ecological importance, vulnerability, naturalness and research status have also been taken into account.
All 19 seamounts are outside the 12 nautical mile coastal zone and within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). They are spread throughout the EEZ and their peaks range in depth from 220 metres to 1750 metres. The shallowest peak is Rumble III, an active volcano north-east of the North Island. The deepest are the unnamed Seamount #140, north-west of Cape Reinga and Seamount #328, south-east of the Chatham Islands, both 1750 metres down.