Gareth Hughes

Ugly fish and seabed mining

by Gareth Hughes

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

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.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Mon, September 16th, 2013   

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