8 December 2013
Source: The Scotsman
Author: Murray Roberts
As 2013 Year of Natural Scotland ends, we have a unique opportunity for Scotland, and Europe, to lead the world in conserving deep-sea biodiversity. Next Tuesday the European Parliament will vote on a proposal to phase out deepsea bottom trawling and gillnet fishing.
In March 2013, the parliament’s environment committee voted 58-1 to phase-out deep-sea bottom trawling in EU waters and by EU vessels fishing the north-east Atlantic. The fisheries committee rejected the proposal last month. The vote next week will decide whether deep-sea trawling and gillnet fishing will end or will continue for at least the next eight to ten years.
Scotland’s territorial seabed is almost six times greater than its land area, making Scotland responsible for most of the UK’s deep-seabed. But this is no longer a pristine wilderness. Scotland’s seabed shows the scars of bottom trawling to catch long-lived, slow growing deep-sea species that are vulnerable to over-fishing. Deep-sea fish are caught primarily by French and Spanish trawlers. They are a tiny proportion of total landings and the fisheries only take place because they are subsidised by the EU taxpayer.
In 1998, as a young researcher, I had the chance to survey the seabed 100 miles north-west of the Hebrides. It was a first glimpse into another world, a part of Natural Scotland seen by only a handful of people.
As you sail west of the Hebrides you traverse the 100-200m deep continental shelf. Between 50 and 100 miles west, the waters rapidly deepen as you cross the shelf edge and descend the continental slope. My 1998 survey photographed these places, the largest ecosystems in Natural Scotland.