New Zealand fishing company proposes ocean-conservation areas

Published on
April 26, 2022
New Zealand-based fishing company Sealord CEO Doug Paulin.

Nelson, New Zealand-based fishing company Sealord is proposing that 89 percent of the country’s seamounts inside its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) be covered by conservation zones.

The plan, which the company has dubbed “Seamounts Count,” would place 127 of the country’s 142 known seamounts into a conservation envelope. The proposal, according to the company, is a way to protect the seamounts without completely banning fishing near all seamounts – something that conservation activists have proposed.

“It is possible to achieve a balance; to conserve the marine environment and continue fishing a very small number of seamounts,” Sealord Chief Executive Doug Paulin said in a release. “This breakthrough proposal strikes a balance heavily in favor of conserving seamounts, which support a dazzling array of seafloor marine life.”

A complete ban, according to Paulin, would be “unnecessary and irresponsible,” and would cost jobs, export earnings, and impact the region’s food production.

“It is about starvation not sustainability, and there will be no significant ecosystem improvement, and no growth in fish numbers,” he said.

According to Sealord, the seamounts that would remain unprotected have already been damaged by past fishing activity, but fish still congregate in the area and deepwater fishers continue to trawl in the area. The 127 seamounts covered by the company’s conservation proposal are untouched, and would remain untouched, it said.

Paulin said the company recognizes the need to protect the seamounts, both as a method of conservation and a means of preserving the company’s ability to continue fishing in the future.

“Protecting the marine environment in which we operate is hugely important to Sealord,” Paulin said. “Seamounts are special deep-sea features that support unique marine life – it’s vital we do our bit to conserve them while striking a balance that still allows a sustainable, healthy food source to feed the world.”

Conservationists, however, said fishing on all seamounts should be banned to protect the environment, Radio New Zealand reported.

"We are facing an extinction crisis and underwater mountains are known to be oases of deep sea corals, sponges, and other ancient and fragile deep sea life,” Deep Sea Conservation Coalition Ocean Advocate Karli Thoma told the publication. “We can't leave it up to the trawl sector of the fishing industry to pick and choose biodiversity hotspots to keep trashing."  

Photo courtesy of Sealord

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