Canada Refuses to Ban Bottom Trawling

As the United Nations deliberates on a total world ban on destructive bottom trawling, Canada is refusing to acknowledge that a ban is needed.

President George W. Bush has endorsed the ban on deep-sea bottom trawling. So have Australia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom

Scientists and environmentalists around the world have called for this ban. It is a call that is coming too late for numerous species of fish. Other species now greatly diminished may be wiped out if this ban is not imposed.

"Canada is refusing to support this ban because the fishermen of Newfoundland have total control on the policies of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans," said Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "We call the DFO the Newfoundland Mafia. They get their way on issues like sealing and overfishing. Because of this DFO bias, the cod were wiped out and the seal hunt has been expanded. Now they want to continue destroying the ocean bottom."

Richard Haedrich, a marine scientist at Memorial University in St. John's, said draggers are killing off some fish species at rapid rates.

"The deep sea is under pressures that it's never been under before," said  Haedrich, who co-wrote a report published in the journal Nature earlier this year that reported alarming declines in marine species.

Haedrich said Canada should join a ban because, he said, deep-sea fish habitat that took thousands of years to form in the North Atlantic can be destroyed in seconds.

"The effect is as though you took a great big bulldozer and dragged it across the ocean bottom," Haedrich said.

In a debate between Captain Paul Watson and former Canadian Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin back in 1995, Mr. Tobin, also a Newfoundlander defended Canadian draggers and blamed the seals for destroying the cod.

"Canadian politicians simply refuse to look at the evidence," said Captain Watson. "They take their marching orders from the fishing industry and what the corporate fishing industry wants they usually get. They don't want solution, they want scapegoats."