Accidental catch of deepwater coral
8 February 2008
In December last year, a New Zealand commercial fishing vessel accidentally caught a large amount of deepwater coral while bottom trawling for orange roughy over seamounts near the Chatham Islands.
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today that it was disappointing that this much coral was taken.
“This was an unfortunate event, as no fisher wants to catch deepwater coral. The Government is working with the fishing industry to understand what happened and how it can be avoided in the future.”
Although bottom trawling does have an impact on the seabed environment, New Zealand is working hard to manage that impact, including closing areas to protect them from further damage.
Last year, an area of 1.2 million square kilometres, over 30% of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, was closed to bottom trawling; this is the largest bottom trawling closure in the world.
In addition, 19 seamounts (underwater mountains) were closed to all trawling in 2001. In total, 52% of all seamounts (underwater mountains greater than 1000 metres in height), 28% of all underwater features such as hills and knolls, and 88% of all known hydrothermal vents have been completely protected from bottom trawling.
The Ministry of Fisheries is currently finalising the Benthic Impacts Strategy. This strategy will provide the framework for the Government to assess whether any further areas need to be closed to bottom trawling.
New Zealand is also taking a lead internationally to manage bottom trawling in the high seas (those areas of ocean outside any country’s EEZ) by working with other countries, both in the United Nations General Assembly and to set up the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). The SPRFMO has already introduced measures to control bottom trawling and manage its impact on the seabed in high seas areas of the south pacific.
Independent government observers were onboard the vessel and took a series of photographs of the coral that was caught. These photographs are available at: