Request to APEC for a moratorium on bottom trawling fishing activities

Date: October 19, 2004

During APEC’s Integrated Oceans Management Forum III, on Easter Island, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) met with fisheries and aquaculture experts participating in the Forum.

The meeting, whose objective was to present the devastating effects of bottom trawling fisheries in international waters, and to raise the need to implement a moratorium, is one of many activities being carried out by the DSCC to obtain the support for a UN moratorium from member countries to the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) at its 59th session currently taking place in New York. “APEC is an important forum for policy development of coastal countries, and the DSCC wants to ensure that the environmental, social and cultural dimensions of marine issues are included by decision makers in those policies”, said Alistair Graham of WWF Australia. Alejandro Buschmann, marine biologist for Oceana, added “economic performance is not the only important issue for development – environmental aspects must also be explicitly incorporated. The only way to reduce problems such as by-catch and over-exploitation of marine resources and to ensure sustainable development is to internalize the environmental cost of fisheries activities. Then destructive practices will no longer be economically viable.” The DSCC campaign builds on the declaration signed at the beginning of the year by 1,136 scientists from 69 countries around the world, signifying unprecedented concern by marine experts for fragile deep sea ecosystems, including deep water corals and sponges that flourish on underwater mountains known as seamounts.

The declaration calls for their protection by governments and the UN alike. Deep sea fish species can live for up to 150 years and coral structures for up to thousands of years. But less than 1% of the world’s seamounts have been studied by biologists. The studies which have been conducted are enough to demonstrate that seamounts and the deep water coral reefs they support constitute one of the biggest reserves of marine biodiversity. A prohibition on bottom trawling on the high seas should be put in place until deep sea biodiversity and ecosystems are catalogued and their vulnerability properly evaluated. Moreover, before lifting the moratorium, binding regulations must be approved and applied to the protection of deep sea biodiversity in accordance with UN agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS (1982), Fish Stocks Agreement, FSA (1995), FAO Conformity Agreement. Oceana’s Press Release (Spanish), pdf.

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