Australia spearheads seabed trawling ban

A Campaign led by Australia has received a boost as the US agreed to support a moratorium on fishers trawling their nets deep on the ocean floor in international waters.

The US’s shift in position came on the eve of a United Nations debate aimed at banning the practice in unregulated waters.

Countries control fishing within their waters, but 64 per cent of the world’s oceans are unregulated, allowing commercial fishing fleets to use new technology to trawl up to one kilometre deep using giant, weighted nets.

Last month the Australian Government announced it supported a timetable for banning the deep sea trawling where it was proven to be destructive to ecosystems.

Under the proposal, nations would have until next July to regulate fishing in the seas under their control, and regional fisheries management organisations would have until the end of the next year to implement agreements in the high seas. If there was no regional agreement in place or being developed, bottom trawling would be banned.

Australia has already moved to protect sensitive undersea mountains caused by volcanic activity in Australian waters – a stand applauded by environmental groups including Greenpeace and the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, and which is supported by New Zealand and the tiny island nation of Palau.

More support came from the actor Sigourney Weaver, who introduced herself at a UN news conference in New York as “a citizen of the world, an earthling”, who had dreamed of becoming a marine biologist “but the maths was beyond me”.

Bottom trawling was devastating the ocean’s last frontier, she said. “The high seas belong to no single country, and they certainly do not belong to these owners of large industrial fishing corporations