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FAO Protects the Deep with New Guidelines

GENERAL - On the first-ever UN World Oceans Day FAO has published a set of technical guidelines aimed at helping the fisheries sector reduce its impacts on fragile deep-sea fish species and ecosystems.

The guidelines provide a framework that countries can use, individually and in the context of regional fisheries management organisations, to manage deep sea fisheries (DSF) in high-seas areas outside of national jurisdictions.

Many deepwater fish species grow slowly, reach sexual maturity late, and may not always reproduce every year. As a result they have low resilience to intensive fishing, and recovery from overfishing can take generations.

Stating that all fishing activity in deep sea areas should be "rigorously managed," the guidelines prescribe steps for identifying and protecting vulnerable ocean ecosystems and provide guidance on the sustainable use of marine living resources in deep-sea areas.

They also outline ways that information on the location and status of vulnerable marine ecosystems, including vulnerable deep-sea fish stocks, should be improved.

Fishing nations should assess the deep-sea fishing being undertaken by their fleets in order to determine if any significant adverse impacts are involved. Deep sea fishing activity should cease in any area where significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems are taking place and remedial steps have to be taken if these are likely to occur. And where it is determined that DSF can be undertaken responsibly, appropriate fishing methods should be used to reduce impacts such as impacts on non-target species.

the Fish Site Editor

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