A Curve Ball From the NZ Seafood Industry


Greenpeace map suggesting that areas proposed for clousre by the NZ Seafood Industry are unfishable and thus not under threat.

Back in over a year ago the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council proposed the establishment of 30 Benthic Protection Areas (BPAs). The combined area of these would be 1.2 million sq km (4x the size of New Zealand) and 30% of NZ Exclusive Economic Zone. What does a BPA mean? These areas would be off limits to trawling by fishing companies.

Marine biologist Dr Steve O’Shea [of giant squid fame] said he was blown away by the proposal, the likes of which he never expected to see in his lifetime. “In my wildest dreams I never thought they would table something like this as a starting point. This is usually where you end. It’s a totally commendable proposal,” he said.

But others were not as happy…

The exclusion of non-fishing interests, poor methodology, and failure to ensure adequate marine protection are among the New Zealand Conservation Authority’s criticisms of the proposal by the Deepwater Stakeholder Group (who are members of the New Zealand fishing industry) for dealing with the effects of bottom trawling. “We’re fine with fishers putting their own interests first, and welcome their acceptance of a need for deep sea floor protection but their proposal for Benthic Protection Areas appears to be more about special treatment of their interests than responsible management of the marine environment,” NZCA chairman Kerry Marshall said today.

To the posting of this comment at the Old DSN O’Shea stated…

Too good to be true? It is certainly not perfect, but why dwell on negatives; it is a move in the right direction. Obviously the fishing industry has listened to environmentalist concerns, and has acknowledged this fact by proposing ~ 31% of the EEZ be incorporated in to BPAs; perhaps they will listen further, recognise that impacts occur throughout the water column, expand the BPA into some form of MPA, and compromise further – until a solution is found that benefits all parties, the environment, and the myriad species within it. These are very interesting times.

So a year later where are the BPA’s? Full implementation is scheduled for 2013. Stakeholders have been consulted, amendments made, and extra areas added. Specifically…

  1. Three new areas have been added increasing the number of seamounts and vents protected.
  2. The initial proposal required an agreement by Government not to close further areas in the EEZ (the strings attached?) except with substantial new information.
  3. A provision was added not interfere with the Marine Protected Area process that occurs from 0-12 miles offshore.
  4. The initial proposal required no funding from the fishing industry for deep-sea research. Now the fishing industry pays – 33% up to $330,000 a year.
  5. The initial proposal incorporated the existing seamount closures into BPAs. Now seamount closures will remain, with their current level of protection.
  6. The proposal will no longer be recognised in legislation.

Steve O’Shea suggested that I may be too critical in wondering if this all too good to be true.  Indeed the lack of the funded research (4), no new closures (2), and interference with exisiting closures (5) made me a bit skeptical.  These are now addressed but I am still curious of the industry’s motivation. What is the gain of the fishing industry for proposing this?

Update: An hour after I posted this Greenpeace released a statement of claiming the ban does not go far enough. Why? The map above shows that most areas proposed for closure are either too deep or too rough to bottom trawl, or are otherwise of no interest to the fishing industry because they don’t contain enough bottom-trawled target fish, such as orange roughy, to be economical as fishing areas.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

3 comments on “A Curve Ball From the NZ Seafood Industry
  1. Craig,

    The map isn’t loading on my computer. I don’t know if this is an issue of the website or my browser (mozilla).

    Anyways, what seems real troubling is the fact that the proposal is no longer recognized in legislation! There is no legal backing for any protection of the BPA’s. Who will recognize a protected area when the government doesn’t? The honour system?

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