National | Bottom Trawling

Protest against bottom trawling of Hauraki Gulf gets underway

Source / Greenpeace Aotearoa, Facebook

A protest against bottom trawling of the Hauraki Gulf will descend on Auckland’s upmarket Mission Bay today.

"We're here at Mission Bay with our friends @forestandbird getting set up for our 'Heart for Hauraki' event," Greenpeace Aotearoa wrote on social media on Sunday morning.

The protest targeting the commercial fishing practice of towing heavy-weighted nets across the seafloor has been organised by Greenpeace Aotearoa and Forest and Bird. They say it involves "indiscriminately bulldozing marine life" and has contributed to "ecosystem collapse in the Hauraki Gulf" - including being implicated in the recent closure of scallop beds.

"Bottom trawling is a hugely destructive fishing method that indiscriminately destroys marine life and precious ecosystems," Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper said Friday.

"To allow the Hauraki Gulf - Tīkapa Moana to recover and thrive, bottom trawling has got to go. The public mandate for change is clear - 84% of people living around the Gulf want trawling gone from their big blue backyard. It’s time the government heard that call and took action to ban trawling in the Gulf."

Supporters at the bottom trawling protest in Mission Bay. Photo: Alex Burton / NZ Herald

Fisheries New Zealand says it is limiting bottom trawling activity in the Hauraki Gulf to "carefully selected access areas" or 'trawl corridors'. It says, "This will help protect the seafloor and its ecosystems."

"These measures will help address the impacts of bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf in a way that sustains and supports the ecosystem. With input from mana whenua and stakeholders, Fisheries New Zealand will design, select, and designate areas or "corridors" within the gulf where bottom trawling and Danish seining can continue to occur but with less impact on biodiversity," Fisheries New Zealand says on its website.

Seafood New Zealand which advocates for the commercial fishing industry says the protest's "limited focus" is unhelpful to the "shared vision of a healthy Hauraki Gulf" and that commercial fishes have "significantly changed" how they fish.

“Yes, commercial fishing is and has been one of the pressures on the Gulf. But commercial fishers have significantly changed how they fish since the mid-1980s, when inshore finfish stocks, including those in the Gulf were in a perilous state," Seafood New Zealand CEO Dr Jeremy Helson said Sunday.

"The number of fishing vessels has reduced, technology and fishing gear has improved, and the increase in healthy fish stocks, thanks to the Quota Management System and management targets, mean fishers are able to stick to the adapted, sandy-bottomed fishing grounds in the Gulf, avoiding areas rich in biodiversity."

Seafood New Zealand says "all stressors on the Gulf" - not just commercial fishing - should be the focus.

“Commercial fishing is not, and would never, shirk its own responsibilities, but unless effective action also takes place on the land, all the other actions will have little effect. This is what we should be asking the Government and councils for, an ecosystem-based approach that addresses all stressors on the Gulf, in proportion to the risk each poses."

The government is currently considering fisheries management changes for the Hauraki Gulf, however, protest organisers claim that proposed plans would allow for bottom trawling to continue in large areas.

The ‘Show Your Heart for the Hauraki’ protest will include a flotilla of more than 200 boats, kayaks and paddleboards and culminate in the unfurling of a floating ‘ban bottom trawling’ banner, organisers say.

The protest was originally planned for earlier this month but was rescheduled due to windy weather.

This article has been updated with comment by Seafood New Zealand.