Marine scientists say the case for a moratorium on the use of heavy trawling gear in deep waters is now overwhelming and should be put in place immediately. A new report prepared for the UN indicates the equipment is doing immense damage to the ecosystems around seamounts, or underwater mountains. 1,100 scientists put their names to a petition supporting the demand for a moratorium.
The technique is very effective but smashes everything in its path, ripping corals and sponges from the sea-floor - removing the habitats on which the fish and other diverse organisms depend. It is practised by relatively few vessels - perhaps no more than 200 worldwide - and accounts for about 0.2% of the total world catch. Eleven nations have bottom-trawling fleets, with Spain's being the biggest. Studies have indicated that none would be commercially viable without government subsidies.
Now a partial agreement has been reached for the South Pacific . It will close to bottom trawling areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known or are likely to exist, unless a prior assessment is undertaken and highly precautionary protective measures are implemented. Observers and monitoring systems will ensure vessels remain five nautical miles from marine ecosystems at risk. The South Pacific contains the last pristine deep-sea marine environment. It extends from the Equator to the Antarctic and from Australia to the western coast of South America. The high seas encompass all areas not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a country
Yet vested interests continue to protest .
The delegation from New Zealand, whose fishermen are responsible for 90% of bottom trawling in the South Pacific high seas said:-
"Because of the cost implications of the necessary research and assessment and observer requirements, it may even have the effect of putting an end to bottom trawling..."