Fisheries Ministers fail to take action

Date: March 12, 2005

Fisheries Ministers from around the world meeting in Rome today, have failed to agree action to protect deep-sea biodiversity from the destructive impact of bottom trawl fishing on the high seas. The Ministers are gathered for a special meeting hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) to discuss combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing worldwide as well as technical assistance to fishing communities in the Indian Ocean devastated by the December Tsunami.

Although a Ministerial declaration issued by the meeting called for international action to combat many types of IUU fishing, this did not include deep sea bottom trawling and failed to incorporate a call by Norway to prohibit unregulated bottom trawl fishing on the high seas. The Ministers’ failure immediately follows a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization meeting, during which concern was expressed that not enough is known about the biology of deep-sea fish populations and the impacts of fishing on deep-sea habitats to manage these fisheries effectively. Deep-sea trawl fishing vessels are increasingly moving into international waters – the high seas – devastating deep-sea corals and other unique but vulnerable ecosystems found throughout the world’s oceans below depths of 200 meters or more. Two thirds of the world’s oceans lie in international waters but most of these high seas areas are not regulated by any fisheries management organizations with the authority to regulate deep-sea fishing. “Deep-sea ecosystems are being irreversibly destroyed by largely unregulated bottom trawl fishing on the high seas” said Juan Carlos Cardenas of Ecoceanos Chile, a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), who is attending the Ministerial meeting. “Ministers must recognize the urgent need to eliminate this form of unregulated fishing”. “The scientific community has clearly sounded the alarm that deep-sea bottom trawl fishing on the high seas may be driving species and whole ecosystems extinct before we know they even exist” said Euan Dunn of Birdlife International, also a member of the DSCC attending the meeting. “We hope to see many more countries join Norway in calling for a prohibition of unregulated trawl fishing on the high seas.”

Notes: The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is an alliance of over 40 international organisations, representing millions of people in countries around the world. It is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

Contact: For further information please contact Matthew Gianni on ++ 31 628 401162

More information: DSCC member statements to COFI: •Statement from BirdLife International on Deep-sea fisheries
Defending Ocean Life, Greenpeace
Seas at Risk statement on Deep Sea Fisheries Additional statements to COFI: •Constraints to the Sustainability of Deep Sea Fisheries beyond National Jurisdiction, Summary and Recommendations, IUCN
Related news: UN: Fisheries summit ignores deep sea trawling risks, conservationists argue, 14 March 2005, Adnkronos International.