Deep Sea Life Also Needs Protection – 2/6/03

Date: 1/6/2003

Government must think beyond coastal reserves to safeguard valuable marine life.

When fishermen in the Ross Sea hauled up in April the second-ever intact specimen of what is being termed the “colossal squid”, the world wanted to know more. Now that the furore has died down, it seems the future of the colossal squid and countless other species is far from certain.

The activities of commercial fisheries in our waters and across the world are not only depleting fishing stocks but also destroying the habitat of a wide variety of species, from tiny microbial organisms to the majestic sperm whale.

One of the richest habitats for marine life in the waters around New Zealand are the seamounts, around 800 undersea volcanoes that rise steeply from the ocean floor. Trawling is the most common method of seeking out commercially viable species, including orange roughy, and is particularly damaging to seamounts. The trawlers scrape along the sea floor, netting targeted species and other sea life such as coral and sponges indiscriminately. Seamounts show the scars of repeated trawling, with only a tiny proportion of their area untouched.

What is needed is the setting aside of some of the seamounts as reserves in perpetuity. Only then will these threatened species be given a chance to survive.

If the Government is serious about conserving the natural resources of the sea, it must act quickly before more of this country’s indigenous marine habitat, and life it supports, becomes extinct!

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