Fishing nations still flouting UN deep sea protection

Date: September 13, 2004

New York – Many countries are failing to live up to their commitments to the United Nations (UN) to protect vulnerable deep sea species and ecosystems, according to two reports released today ahead of a two day debate on deep sea fisheries by the UN in New York.
In spite of successive UN resolutions calling for urgent action, countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, South Korea, Russia, Cook Islands, Australia, New Zealand and Japan continue to allow their vessels to fish the deep ocean in international waters using bottom trawl gear, a highly damaging fishing technique, with devastating implications for the future of deep sea marine life in the world’s oceans.

One of the reports (See link to Weaver et al, below) published today by eminent marine scientists concludes that five years after the UN General Assembly (GA) took action to protect them, highly vulnerable and unique deep sea ecosystems remain unprotected, and that deep sea fisheries are not being managed sustainably.

The other report (See link to Gianni et al, below) published by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), of which Seas At Risk is a steering group member, draws similarly damning conclusions. Fishing states and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have had enough time to implement measures but, with the exception of the management of deep-sea fisheries in the waters around Antarctica, have not done so sufficiently. The DSCC report highlights a series of failures to implement key provisions of the UN resolutions including completion of proper impact assessments before granting fishing permits, and establishing regulations to ensure the long-term sustainability of deep sea species.

Seas At Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek said: “These reports show that while some progress has been made, several countries continue to allow their vessels to engage in this type of fishing in contravention of the commitments they’ve made. These countries are therefore engaged in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries and should be told to shape up or stop fishing. The High Seas are the ocean’s global commons, and their exploitation must be sustainable and their ecosystems protected.”

The first of the UN resolutions addressing deep sea bottom trawling (2006) was adopted by the UN General Assembly after a lengthy debate in which many States called for a temporary prohibition on the practice of deep sea bottom trawl fishing on the high seas — considered one of the most highly destructive in current use. Instead, the UN negotiators reached a compromise which required that unless a series of protection measures was implemented by December 2008, fishing would not be allowed to continue. These measures were further strengthened in a follow-up resolution adopted by the UNGA in 2009.

The objective of the two day UN meeting is to evaluate and review the implementation of the 2006 and 2009 UN Resolutions. Representatives of the DSCC and several leading marine scientists will be giving evidence and present the findings of both reports to the UN at this meeting, and Seas At Risk will be present.

In a parallel development, global web movement Avaaz will deliver over half a million signatures on a petition calling on the UN General Assembly to ban deep sea bottom-fishing.

Deep sea bottom trawling is recognised as the most serious direct threat to deep-sea ecosystems. Some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity are found in the deep-sea and new species of corals and sponges are still being discovered. Once destroyed or overfished, slow-growing deep-sea species are either lost forever or unlikely to recover for decades or centuries.


The impact of deep-sea fisheries and implementation of the UNGA Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72. Weaver, et al. (2011).
click here

Unfinished business: a review of the implementation of the provisions of UNGA
resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 related to the management of bottom fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Gianni et al. (2011)
click here

DSCC position paper: Recommendations for the UN General Assembly
view pdf