European governments are turning a blind eye to the daily destruction of vulnerable deep-sea marine life by unregulated fishing vessels flying under European flags, according to a new Greenpeace report released today.
“Murky Waters: hauling in the net on Europe’s high seas bottom trawling fleet” documents the destructive activities of high seas bottom trawlers observed fishing in the North Atlantic by Greenpeace in 2004 and 2005.
Several of the vessels had been cited breaking the few rules that do exist in these fisheries, yet all continued to fish. All of the vessels observed were either owned by European nationals or fly the flags of European states.
High seas bottom trawling is recognised as the most destructive of all fishing methods. Using weighted nets, which are dragged across the ocean floor to catch and crush everything in their path, the practice leaves valuable marine habitats as wastelands and devastates vulnerable, slow-growing deep-sea fish stocks.
According to the Greenpeace report, only a few hundred ships are responsible for devastating huge areas of the world’s oceans, with 60% of these vessels flagged to EU Member States, principally Spain, Denmark and France.
“European interests are fuelling what is recognized as one of the greatest threats to marine life: unregulated high seas bottom trawling” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner, Sari Tolvanen, of Greenpeace. “The report shows that Europe is a leading deep-sea destroyer. This can and must change.
European governments hold the key to the protection of deep-sea life: by supporting a United Nations moratorium on high seas bottom trawling these countries could ensure that these rich ecosystems are saved from ruin. The economic cost of a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling would be negligible compared to the protection provided to deep-sea life – which is priceless.”
The Report coincides with the ministerial-level OECD Task Force meeting on high seas illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, which is due to reveal how it plans to further discuss the problem of pirate fishing.
Just last month, the 25 states that make up the European Union stood up at the United Nations and said that urgent action was needed to combat two of the biggest threats to marine life: destructive deep-sea fishing and illegal fishing. “Words are fine, but action is better,” said Remi Parmentier of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, a consortium of more than 50 NGOs worldwide set up to promote a UN high seas bottom trawling moratorium. “The EU must now put its money where its mouth is and immediately announce that it will support the proposed United Nations General Assembly moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.”
“The unregulated bottom trawlers exposed in the Greenpeace Report are just one facet of a broader picture of destruction spanning all of the world’s oceans. All of it leads back to the failure of governments to act effectively to regulate illegal fishing,” said Tolvanen of Greenpeace.
Earlier this week the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, set sail from Cape Town, South Africa as part of the year-long ‘Defending Our Oceans Expedition’ to highlight the threats to the oceans and demand that 40% be declared no-take marine reserves, to safeguard marine life. Over the next few months, in partnership with the Environmental Justice Foundation, the Esperanza will expose how fishing pirates in the Atlantic are wiping out marine life and destroying the livelihoods of the communities dependent on our oceans for food.
The report is available on line at www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/murky-waters
Notes to Editor
Greenpeace is a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, an alliance of more than 50 international environmental and conservation organisations which are seeking a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.
Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation are working together to expose the pirate fishing fleets that operate without sanction across the globe. Together the international environment and human rights organisations are demanding that governments close ports to ban pirates, deny them access to markets and prosecute companies supporting them.
Sari Tolvanen Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner +358 505 014 472
Remi Parmentier, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition +34 637 557 357 Green Peace