Matt Watson says bottom trawling is 'embarrassing for New Zealand', calls for ban

TV personality Matt Watson says bottom trawling for seafood is "embarrassing for New Zealand" and wants to see it banned. 

Watson's call comes as Aotearoa made just under $1.5 billion from seafood exports last year. 

The Government has now launched its proposed plans to bring change to the fishing industry but some are worried the plan lacks teeth.

The Fishing Show host Watson told AM he doesn't see a plan but rather a "bunch of ideas" that outline the problem and how to find a solution.

"The solution is pretty easy, ban bottom trawling. It's no good. The science says it destroys that benthic layer, which is the food factory of the ocean. It is destructive." 

He said bottom trawling is banned in other countries, so doesn't see a reason for it to continue in Aotearoa.

"Give the fleet a chance to change, and there are selective methods that are in practice now, which actually get us a higher value for our fish as well."

Watson told AM the industry is too focused on catching as much seafood as possible and exporting it in bulk.

"Let's get higher value fish, take less [and] get paid more for it."

He said whale hunters found something else to do with their boats once whale hunting was banned.

"Twenty-five, 30 years ago we didn't really understand bottom trawling, it was just the way we harvested fish. We know now there's ways to make it better, let's put a line in the sand and start changing our fleet," he said.

"Because it's pretty embarrassing for New Zealand that we're doing it here."

Forest and Bird strategic adviser Geoff Keey told AM the plan is "like baby steps, it's not a transformational plan".

"There needs to be an end date [to bottom trawling]. We've been talking about and arguing and debating bottom trawling in New Zealand for most of the time I've been an adult, I've got grey hair now."

He said an end date and plans are needed to shift the industry away from the method.

Watch the full interviews above.