Ugly fish and seabed mining

In fishy news this week. First up, my favourite fish the Blobfish was officially voted the ugliest fish in the world. And fair enough too. I used him as an example a few years back at an event at Parliament as part of the deep sea bottom trawling campaign to demonstrate that New Zealand was active saving photogenic animals like whales, but forgetting about the ugly fish at threat from destructive bottom trawling.

Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus or the world’s ugliest fish)

Ultimately the stop deep sea bottom trawling campaign saw a third of New Zealand’s waters declared off limits to bottom trawling. The last Labour Government established Benthic Protected Areas (BPAs) where fishing 100m above the seabed and dredging was prohibited to protect the seabed environment. Now however Chatham Rock Phosphate wants to mine phosphate from the sea floor in about 450 square kilometres of seabed in the Chatham Rise, part of which is in the BPA.

These are protected areas, meaning they are off-limits to destructive practices like bottom trawling and dredging but apparently are open to mining. I think it makes a mockery of our marine protections to allow literally vacuuming up the seabed in a marine protected area, and undermines the legitimacy of conservation areas and efforts elsewhere. I’m not alone in this: the fishing industry is also opposed as this is their most productive fishery and the environmental risks are real.

Gareth Hughes taking action on the Tasman Sea. Photo credit: Greenpeace
Gareth Hughes taking action on the Tasman Sea. Photo credit: Greenpeace

TV3 over the weekend ran a story about my unlikely partnership with the deepwater fishing industry. Despite having sailed on the Rainbow Warrior, doing what Governments wouldn’t in standing up and stopping bottom trawlers from wreaking their havoc on the seabed, it’s great to work with them now to preserve marine protected areas and our marine environment.

8 Comments Posted

  1. The Benthic Protected Areas are bogus. They were set up with the help of the fishing industry to protect areas in which the fishermen had little interest. It was nothing but a politically calculated giveaway. As you know, the fishermen impact vast expanses of the ocean floor with their bottom trawling. The phosphate mine, by comparison, will only impact a tiny area.

    The Chatham operation is a simple dredging program. Almost identical to dredging programs ongoing throughout the world at harbors and beaches. Sand is picked up and redeposited, less the phosphate rock, on the seafloor. It is the most environmentally benign form of mining of which I am aware. Thus it is ironic that the author of this blog has teamed with the fishing industry, which wreaks far more havoc and destruction on the ocean floor, to condemn a project which will have a very limited negative environmental impact. I believe the fishing industry is using the author as a pawn.

    Bringing phosphates produced at home to NZ can be highly beneficial to the people of NZ, the farmers in the country, and the economy more generally. It is too bad when environmentalists fail to put their concerns into context. Protesting against a project that has very limited environmental downside and significant upside to the people of NZ makes little sense to me.

  2. Kerry Thomas @ 5.20 pm.
    Actually Gareth got the captions the wrong way round on the two pictures illustrating this story.
    The SECOND of the two pictures is of the blobfish.

    Only joking GH

  3. The area that Chatham Rock Phosphate intend mining per year is quite small, and therefore will have very limited effect. The seabed will recover after the mining although this will take a while. The phosphate will be used to manufacture fertiliser, so if the phosphate isn’t going to be mined from the seabed, where do you suggest it be obtained? Or would you rather food production drops?


  4. those who pay no repect to our environment and the nature in general are such a disgrace to all humankind…but so many more will suffer from consequences caused by few some selfish greedy b..tards…how unfair and how sad!

Comments are closed.