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Most High Seas, Deep Sea Fisheries Unmanaged


GENERAL - The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has released a report at the United Nations which describes major shortcomings in the implementation of UN General Assembly resolutions designed to protect the deep-ocean from the destructive impact of fishing.

Lead author of the report, Dr Alex Rogers of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), said that "RFMOs are failing to manage deep-sea bottom fisheries on the high seas sustainably with respect to target and by-catch species. For most fisheries there is little or no information on the status of stocks and in many cases we do not even know what is being caught where."

The report, the first comprehensive scientific review of the management of deep-sea fishing on the high seas globally, examines the data available from Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the bodies tasked with implementing the United Nations resolutions.

The report highlights that while substantial portions of the high seas in some regions such as the Northeast Atlantic have been closed to bottom fishing to protect deep-sea coral ecosystems, most high seas areas remain open to continued bottom fishing with few constraints.

Deep-sea gillnet fishing has been prohibited in the Northeast and Southeast Atlantic, the South Pacific and the Southern Ocean but bottom trawl fishing, the most destructive fishing gear to deep-sea ecosystems, has only been banned in the waters around Antarctica. Many vulnerable marine ecosystems have not even been considered in the management of deep-sea bottom fisheries on the high seas.

In some cases, even where there is strong evidence of the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems they have not been protected.

The General Assembly called on all RFMOs and fishing nations to conduct environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of deep-sea fisheries prior to allowing them to proceed - a first in the history of high seas fisheries management.

The report highlights that EIAs have not been properly conducted for the majority of deep-sea fisheries, including in the heavily fished North Atlantic region. The report also concludes that many of target and by-catch deep-sea fish species caught in these fisheries continue to be highly vulnerable to excessive and unregulated fishing.

Dr Alex Rogers said that: "The lack of any action to protect species that are threatened with regional extirpation or even global extinction is a particular concern in terms of marine biodiversity."

"The UN General Assembly resolutions represent a commitment by the high seas fishing nations to the international community to manage these fisheries sustainably or else prohibit their vessels from fishing the deep-sea" Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition told the UN.

"Our hope is that the countries that do not engage in deep-sea fishing on the high seas, by far the majority of nations, will use this information to hold the high seas fishing nations accountable to their political commitments and responsibility to the international community."

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.