9 November 2014
Source: The Herald
Author: Rob Edwards
The wildlife is thousands of years old, there are species upon species that have not yet been discovered and it is key to the survival of the planet.
But environmentalists say our rich undersea habitat is now being destroyed.
The deep ocean environment is perhaps the most important and least understood of the planet's natural habitats. But in the west of Scotland it has been targeted by foreign fishing trawlers that drag heavy nets across the seabed, damaging everything in their path.
The European Commission (EC) has proposed a ban, unleashing fury from the fishing industry and meeting opposition from the Scottish and UK Governments. But pressure is now mounting on ministers to back the ban, with a petition signed by nearly 15,000 people and promoted by a coalition of 10 environmental groups.
Allowing the trawling of the deep-sea bottom is like letting "Stonehenge be bulldozed", they say. But this is angrily disputed by fishing leaders, who attack environmentalists as "emotive" and the EC's proposed ban as a "knee-jerk reaction".
The deep sea, defined as waters deeper than 200 metres, makes up 98% of all the space in which life on earth can develop. It is the world's richest source of wildlife, with an estimated one to 10 million species still to be discovered.