New Zealand environment groups are appealing to the fisheries minister to take urgent action following the publication of a new study.
Trawling the ocean floor for fish releases more carbon in a year than the pre-Covid global aviation industry, according to new research.
New Zealand environment campaigners are calling for the fisheries minister to take urgent action after the study by 26 researchers from across the globe was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
It calculated that bottom trawling, a practice where fishing boats drag weighted nets along the seabed to scoop up fish, created a gigatonne of carbon emissions per year or 1 billion metric tonnes.
In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the global aviation industry created an estimated 918 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
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The latest snapshot of the state of our oceans paints yet again a bleak picture of what’s happening beneath the waves. (First published October 2019)
The study said marine sediment, or the dirt at the bottom of the sea, was the worlds biggest carbon sink, and was able to safely store carbon for millennia if left undisturbed.
However, disturbance of these carbon stores can remineralize sedimentary carbon to CO2, which is likely to increase ocean acidification, reduce the buffering capacity of the ocean and potentially add to the build-up of atmospheric CO2, it said.
Protecting the carbon-rich seabed is a potentially important nature-based solution to climate change.
A coalition of eight New Zealand environmental groups had written to Fisheries Minister David Parker asking him to make urgent changes to the Fisheries Act 1996.
Environment groups are calling for Fisheries Minister David Parker to develop a sustainability measure under the Fisheries Act.
The groups were calling on the Government to immediately ban trawling on seamounts, and immediately limit bottom trawling to areas trawled in 2006 to prevent harm to untouched or recovering areas.
They also wanted a requirement for fishers to shift five nautical miles from where they were fishing if they started dragging up coral, and to stop all trawl fishing that touched the sea floor within seven years.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Jessica Desmond said bottom trawling was a double whammy for the ocean, destroying biodiversity while simultaneously disturbing the worlds largest carbon sink.
For two decades, environmentalists have been urging the Government to protect ocean wildlife from the habitat-destroying practice of bottom trawling.
This new science shows that theres another side to that coin, releasing a gigatonne of carbon that has been stored away in the ocean.
Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said that in the past year, 29 species of coral had been trawled up in nets in New Zealand waters.
Scientific studies show that deep-sea corals can take up to 30 years to even begin to recover from the damage, he said.
Entire protected coral habitats are allowed to be destroyed because its officially considered unintended. There is nothing unintended about rolling huge heavy nets across the seabed, smashing everything in their way.
The coalition is made up of Forest & Bird, Eco, Greenpeace, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, LegaSea, NZ Sport Fishing, Our Seas Our Future, and WWF.