NAFO "must take action to protect vulnerable marine life" –

NAFO “must take action to protect vulnerable marine life” Published:  05 May, 2008

Dr Robert Rangeley

WWF Canada is calling for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), and its 13 contracting parties to adopt a plan to protect vulnerable marine species and habitats, including coldwater coral forests, by this December, at its Intersessional Meeting next week in Montreal.

Protecting corals and other species would bring the severely depleted Grand Banks one step closer to recovery, says the conservation group.

In 2006, fishing nations from around the world agreed to implement the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries (61/105), which calls on high seas fishing nations and regional fisheries management organisations, such as NAFO, to identify and protect vulnerable species and habitats by December 31, 2008.

“Failure to adopt a plan in Montreal would basically guarantee the UNGA December 2008 deadline will not be met, which is unacceptable,” said Dr Robert Rangeley, vice president Atlantic, WWF Canada.

“The meeting represents an important opportunity to build on commitments to reform management practices.

“In the past two years, NAFO has taken initial steps in the right direction by redrafting flawed convention text, protecting some coral and seamount areas, and committing to developing a cod recovery plan.”

To date, the species-by-species approach to setting quotas and managing fisheries has “failed miserably”, according to WWF, as almost half of NAFO-managed stocks are severely depleted and closed due to overfishing.

Protecting vulnerable areas is an important step towards implementing a more holistic – or ecosystem – approach to managing fisheries, to which NAFO has committed through its new convention it continues.

“We expect NAFO contracting parties to live up to their 2006 commitment and agree to a plan for assessing the impacts of bottom fishing and protecting vulnerable areas in the high seas,” concluded Mr Rangeley.

”Success in Montreal will be measured by the commitment of NAFO to identify vulnerable areas by September and to take action that will protect these areas by the December 2008 deadline.

“This is an opportunity to set a very significant precedent – one that will be ultimately measured by improved health of our oceans and prosperity of our fisheries.”

Failure in Montreal will result in further degradation of the marine ecosystem through the impacts of poorly regulated bottom fishing, says WWF.

“Drastic measures would then be necessary to reverse the loss of habitats and species.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.