South Pacific to Be Protected from Destructive Fishing

A fisher with a trawl net
A fisher with a trawl net.

More than 20 South Pacific nations have agreed to restrict bottom trawling—an invasive form of fishing that can devastate marine habitats—in areas with vulnerable ecosystems, according to the BBC. Fishers will be prohibited from using the technique, which involves dragging large trawl nets along the sea floor, in marine regions where deep-water corals and other sensitive ecosystems are known or likely to exist, unless the area has been previously assessed and protective measures are used. Observers and monitoring systems will help enforce the pact, which enters into effect on September 30.

The agreement was formulated in Renaca, Chile, and will affect roughly a quarter of the world’s high seas, from the Equator to the Antarctic Circle and from Australia to South America. Fishers from New Zealand alone are responsible for some 90 percent of bottom trawling in the region, and that nation’s delegation noted that the new rules would “severely constrain” these activities. “Because of the cost implications of the necessary research and assessment and observer requirements, it may even have the effect of putting an end to bottom trawling,” the delegation said.

This is welcome news to conservationists. “Bottom trawling is by far the most destructive fishing practice,” says Brian Halweil, a senior researcher with the Worldwatch Institute. “It’s purely modern in the sense that only modern technology can generate the power to drag massive nets along the bottom. But it also destroys millions of marine creatures and their habitat, ultimately decimating future generations of sea life as well.”

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.