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Greenpeace Wants Halt to Deep Seas Bottom-Trawling

July 26, 2005 — By David Ljunggren, Reuters

OTTAWA — Greenpeace issued a fresh call Monday to stop the practice of bottom-trawling, saying the international organizations that manage fish stocks were doing nothing to stop the destruction of ocean beds.

The conservation group says trawlers hunting for fish such as the orange roughy let their nets drag along the seabed at depths of up to 2 km (1.2 miles), destroying everything in their wake.

'We have documented an enormous range of the deep sea life that's coming up in these nets, including 500-year-old pieces of coral that are just ripped out of the seabed and (then) tossed back over the side,' said Bunny McDiarmid of Greenpeace.

Last year a group of international scientists blamed around a dozen nations for the practice, including Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway.

World fish stocks are managed by a number of regional international bodies and last year the United Nations General Assembly asked these groupings to look into bottom-trawling.

But Greenpeace said Monday that the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which covers Canadian waters, and other such groups were very poor on protecting species.

A Greenpeace statement said an estimated 60 percent of bottom-trawling took place in the northwest Atlantic, most of it in the NAFO area.

'They've done an incredibly bad job of managing the fish for the last 25 years ... NAFO has an appalling record,' said McDiarmid, co-author of a critical report on NAFO released by Greenpeace Monday.

McDiarmid said the regional organizations only cover 25 percent of the high seas and are focused on fish stocks rather than preservation.

She called for 'a time-out' on bottom-trawling until proper rules can be worked out and criticized the Canadian government for not supporting a moratorium on bottom trawling.

Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan said that while he agreed regional fisheries bodies needed to become more efficient, the idea of a blanket ban on bottom trawling was unrealistic.

'It's clear to us that there are certainly types of (sea) bottoms where bottom-trawling doesn't do significant damage,' he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

'Saying (we should) ... ban all of it is really a blanket broad brush approach that isn't going to be successful and isn't going to target the key problem,' he said.

Source: Reuters