20 September 2008
As the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) prepares to begin its meeting in Vigo next week (21 September) it faces a major challenge to achieve implementation of UN resolution 61/105.
The 2006 Resolution requires NAFO and other RFMOs to either protect deep-sea ecosystems from bottom trawling by 31st December 2008 or prohibit high seas bottom trawling.
"December 2008 is the deadline which NAFO needs to meet to deliver on the promise made by high seas fishing nations to protect deep-sea ecosystems in international waters" said Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. "NAFO has made real progress over the past year, in developing a framework to address the requirements of the UN GA resolution, but real regulations must be agreed in Vigo next week.
"Sustainable fisheries advocates and marine conservationists will be watching NAFO over the coming week, as decisions made will impact the future of the North Atlantic," says Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre of Canada. "There are expectations that NAFO will agree to regulations to prevent fishing on vulnerable marine areas, and increase the number of areas closed to bottom fishing – areas such as seamounts and concentrations of cold-water corals."
If NAFO and other high seas fisheries management organizations cannot successfully protect deep-sea corals and other sensitive areas from bottom trawling the UN General Assembly may well call for a high seas moratorium in 2009.