New measures to manage high seas bottom trawling
23 April 2008
New Zealand is implementing a suite of measures to better manage the environmental impact of bottom trawling by New Zealand fishers on the high seas, Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive Wayne McNee announced today.
New Zealand agreed to implement a set of interim conservation and management measures during negotiations to form the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). SPRFMO will be an international agreement that will manage fishing of non-tuna fish species and the environmental impacts of fishing in high seas areas (the areas of ocean outside the control of any country) of the southern Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea.
These interim measures are designed to ensure that bottom trawling activity does not increase from current levels and that significant adverse impacts on “vulnerable marine ecosystems” (VMEs) such as seamounts and deepwater coral forests are avoided.
The measures that will be taken by New Zealand in the proposed SRFMO area are:
- Limiting bottom trawling to areas that were fished between 2002 and 2006;
- Prohibiting bottom trawling in any new areas;
- Closing around 112,000 square kilometres of previously fished high seas area to bottom trawling;
- Imposing restrictions on bottom trawling in around 82,000 square kilometres with a “move-on rule”; and
- Requiring all fishing vessels to carry at least one Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) observer.
These measures are designed to avoid and manage significant adverse impacts to VMEs from bottom trawling by focusing fishing activity on areas that are likely to have already been significantly affected and by minimising the impact of fishing in other areas.
"This is a major step forward in managing the environmental impacts of bottom trawling in the high seas around New Zealand,” said Mr McNee.
“New Zealand is committed to international efforts to manage high seas fishing and its environmental effects.”
MFish has assessed and mapped New Zealand’s SPRFMO area bottom trawling activity between 2002 and 2006. This forms New Zealand’s bottom trawling “foot-print”. Bottom trawling outside this current foot-print will be prohibited. The foot-print has been divided into areas that have been assessed as lightly, moderately or heavily trawled.
All lightly trawled areas have been closed to bottom trawling as they are largely pristine. In addition, representative areas that have been moderately or heavily trawled but are considered likely to contain VMEs have been closed. This amounts to a closure of 41% of the foot-print.
All moderately trawled areas that remain open will have a “move-on” rule. This rule requires any fisher that has accidentally taken bycatch that suggests they have encountered a VME (such as corals or deepwater sponges) must stop fishing immediately, move five nautical miles away and report the bycatch to MFish.
Heavily trawled areas that have not been closed remain available to normal fishing activity, provided that fishing vessels carry MFish observers on board.
“I recognise that there will be some financial impact on fishers from these measures,” said Mr McNee. “There are significant fishing grounds still available to fishers.”
These measures are based on the best available scientific information, including fishing intensity and activity, depth and seabed topography. They have been extensively consulted on with New Zealand fishers and environmental interest groups. They have also been reviewed by the SPRFMO scientific working group, an international committee of scientists from SPRFMO countries.
In 2010 all measures will be reviewed to assess their practicality and effectiveness and to ensure they are consistent with any SPRFMO measures or agreements that may be coming into force by that time.
These measures come into effect on May 1 2008.