I don’t see eye to eye with the deep sea fishing industry on many things, having personally seen the havoc bottom trawling wreaks on the ocean floor, but one thing I do agree with them on is the issue of seabed phosphate mining.
Last week while everyone was focused on the state of the economy and the Government’s books, Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd (CRP) on Budget Day quietly announced they had put in a consent application to the EPA to mine the Chatham Rise seabed for phosphate. I guess they wanted maximum media attention and public debate! The cynic in me thinks putting it in on Budget Day was a ploy to fly under the radar. It is a very controversial application after all. It is a highly experimental project in our most productive fishery area in a protected area. Part of the mining permit zone is in a Benthic Protected Area, where fishers can’t go within 100m of the seabed to protect it from damage but CRP hopes to literally vacuum up the seafloor for phosphate deposits. I agree with the Deepwater Group it does look like a double standard and I believe protected areas should there to protect, not open for mining.
The Exclusive Economic Zone Act now kicks in and a decision is expected within six months. I’ll eventually be making a submission to the EPA and I hope you can join me.
Mining the ocean floor is the New Zealand extractive industry ‘new frontier’ and it is important we have a genuine public debate about what is and what isn’t appropriate. I am calling for a moratorium on seabed mining in New Zealand’s waters so we can discuss the issues, undertake more research and ensure we aren’t rushing into something we haven’t fully considered the impacts.