Conservation group calls for stronger deep ocean protection measures – Fishupdate.com

Conservation group calls for stronger deep ocean protection measures Published:  24 September, 2007

AS major fishing nations gather today to determine the future of the Northwest Atlantic, members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) are calling upon states to implement the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) mandate for deep ocean protection.

Following progress in the South Pacific towards real protection on the water, attention now turns to NAFO (the Northwest Atlantic Regional Fisheries Management Organisation) to deliver at least the same level of progress.

The NAFO meeting, which begins today, involves twelve countries responsible for regulating high seas fisheries for highly depleted cod, redfish, grenadiers and other ‘groundfish’ species. Russian and European Union fleets dominate the high seas fisheries in the region, with Spain, Portugal and Estonia taking the bulk of the EU catch.

In 2006, the UN GA called on NAFO and other regional bodies to protect highly vulnerable and unique deep-sea ecosystems such as seamounts, cold-water corals and hydrothermal vents from the destructive impact of bottom fishing by no later than December 31, 2008.

According to the DSCC, these types of ecosystems are likely to be found throughout deep-sea areas in the Northwest Atlantic at depths accessible to fishing fleets. It says that, to meet the UN GA deadline, NAFO will have to agree to strong measures this year, including requiring environmental impact assessments of deep-sea fishing on the high seas and to begin identifying and closing vulnerable deep-sea areas to bottom impact fishing.

“We don’t want to see the extraordinary life in the deep-sea go the way of Newfoundland cod” said Matthew Gianni of the DSCC, in reference to the collapse of the Grand Banks cod fishery off Newfoundand 15 years ago. “Deep-sea corals are extremely vulnerable to the destructive impact of bottom fishing and may take centuries or longer to recover, if at all.”

The UN FAO released a report in 2006 analysing the state of the fisheries in the international waters of the world’s oceans. The FAO report concluded that the majority of the fisheries managed by NAFO were overexploited or depleted.

The DSCC is a coalition of over 60 organisations worldwide working to protect deep-sea biodiversity. DSCC member organizations Ecology Action Center of Canada and Seas at Risk (an EU based coalition) will be attending the NAFO meeting.

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