Conservationists call on Government to ban deep-sea trawling on underwater mountains

Conservationists are calling on the Government to ban deep-sea trawling on underwater mountains, which are known to be biological hotspots for marine life.

Fifteen major regions that fish in the south Pacific met on Tuesday, as part of a week of talks aimed at creating a sustainable future for the region's fish stocks.

However, deep-sea trawling on seamounts will barely rate a mention and probably not from New Zealand.

Many of us have enjoyed a hearty fish and chips meal by the beach this summer, but 90 percent of the fish we eat is caught by bottom trawling.

And conservationists say deep-sea trawling carried out by New Zealand fishing vessels is ruining the ecosystem by tearing apart seamounts.

"When bottom trawlers trawl over seamounts they literally drag the nets of the entire eco-system - so essentially it's like underwater bulldozing," Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper says.

This week, New Zealand will join representatives from all over the world in a South Pacific Fisheries Management summit, also known as SPRFMO.

Activists say New Zealand is holding up progress and they want action.

"The thing is the New Zealand Government could end the destruction now cause we are the only ones who still have a fleet out there trawling on seamounts and those permits stop in April," Deep Sea Conservation Coalition spokesperson Karli Thomas says.

But they're not holding their breath.

"They're probably going to go with the status quo, they are going to allow bottom trawling for another year, which means more ecosystem destruction," Hooper says.

But the public thinks it's time something was done with a new Horizon Greenpeace poll finding that 79 percent of Kiwis think that all bottom trawling should be banned altogether.

While the Government rejected Newshub's request for an interview, in a statement to Newshub it promises to review the current management system, but says the terms of reference and participants of said discussion aren't yet finalised.

The industry says the amount of the seamount it targets for deep-sea trawling is minuscule.

"You want to talk about a seamount, you've got hills that look like Mt Eden, and you've got mountains that look Mt Ruapehu, but the trawlables areas is like the ski slopes and that's what we do," Sandford general manager Colin Williams says.

While Kiwis have an appetite for fish, fishing companies will have an appetite for trawling.

Activists will still be waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel.