A public event opposing bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf marine park saw hundreds of people gather along with a flotilla of crafts at Auckland’s Mission Bay on 23 April 2023.

The event, called ‘Show Your Heart for the Hauraki’, was organised by Greenpeace Aotearoa and Forest & Bird, and more than 60 vessels, from yachts to kayaks and paddleboards joined the flotilla, surrounding a huge banner calling for an end to bottom trawling in the Gulf.

Bottom trawling involves dragging large weighted nets across the seafloor to catch fish and is a common commercial fishing method used in New Zealand. However, Forest & Bird says that a single trawl “can create a sediment plume comparable in size to the entire Goat Island Marine Reserve, choking filter-feeding animals and smothering photosynthesising organisms.”

“We’re here to call for an end to destructive bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf Tīkapa Moana to protect our big blue backyard for the future,” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper.

“All these people are here today because they want a thriving, vibrant Hauraki Gulf, free from the threat of destructive bottom trawling. Trawling has no place in this precious marine park and the public mandate for change is clear – over 84% of people surveyed want trawling gone from the Gulf. It’s time the Government listens and bans bottom trawling so the Gulf can recover.”

Hauraki Gulf bottom trawling protest
Hundreds of people gathered along with a flotilla of crafts at Auckland’s Mission Bay. Photo: Supplied

Forest & Bird Hauraki Gulf coordinator Bianca Ranson said, “Tīkapa Moana is a biodiversity hotspot, it is a taonga, and we must do everything we can to revitalise the mauri and life-sustaining capacity of the Gulf. Everything is connected in an ecosystem, and it is deeply disappointing that bottom trawling is still being allowed to continue. 

“From Byrde’s whales to manta ray and tarakihi to tāiko, the Hauraki Gulf is home to a treasure trove of marine life and bottom trawling puts all that life at risk, destroying the seafloor and indiscriminately catching more than the Gulf can sustain.

“Right now, the Government is considering decisions that will determine if the Gulf thrives or declines further into ecological collapse. We’re here to tell the Government to listen to the tens of thousands of people that want protection, and not be influenced by industry lobbyists. We need to protect the Gulf, not the interests of the commercial fishing industry.”

“Removing the pressure of bottom trawling is a no-brainer. The Sea Change proposal – a collaborative plan to reverse the Gulf’s decline – recommended the removal of bottom trawling, yet the Government has chosen to forge ahead with leaving vast areas of the Gulf open to destruction.”

Hooper added that research shows that species are still in decline in the marine park, which was created more than 20 years ago.

“This is because the action was nowhere near bold enough and avoided tackling the key drivers of biodiversity loss.

“To turn things around for the Gulf and to allow this once abundant place to recover, bottom trawling has got to go. The time for action is now.”