In Paris this week, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) called on France to support a UN General Assembly resolution as France’s friends of the ocean gathered at the Oceanographic Institute for the ‘Deep Trouble’ conference (‘Au fond, il y a un problème’) to discuss high seas bottom trawling. The conference (1) was attended by around 200 people, among them scientists, undersea explorers, environmentalists writers, journalists and representatives from non-governmental organisations.
Deep sea explorer and pioneer Dr. Sylvia Earle, one of the conference’s distinguished guest speakers, reminded the conference that humankind has a unique but fast-fading opportunity to protect marine biodiversity from one of the world’s most destructive fishing practices – deep sea bottom trawling in international waters. “We now know by looking at images that cameras lowered into the deep sea are bringing back, and from observations from submersibles, that the destruction is rather equivalent to taking a bulldozer to a forest – in order to catch a few squirrels you bulldoze the entire system,” Dr. Earle said. (2) Dr. Earle is one of over a thousand scientists from 69 countries who are calling on the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling because of the irreversible and destructive impact it has on deep-sea ecosystems. DSCC advisor Rémi Parmentier gave a presentation to the conference on the growing political momentum for a UN moratorium. The Deep Trouble conference took place in the same week that the European Union Committee on Maritime Affairs (COMAR) met in Brussels to try and agree on a common EU position on a bottom trawling ban. Until now, France has sided with Spain and the European Commission in opposition to the proposed moratorium. However, the French roving Ambassador for the Environment Denys Gauer, also a guest speaker at the Deep Trouble Paris conference, said that the French position is “in evolution”, and the DSCC hopes that with the momentum gained in Paris, the French government will be more flexible. Another distinguished deep sea exploration pioneer, Professor Lucien Laubier, Director of the Oceanographic Institute, who was part of Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s first diving expedition on board the “Calypso” in 1951, gave a presentation on the history of deep sea exploration, including a moving account of his personal experience as the first person to dive on a Mediterranean white coral reef in 1951. At the end the conference, facilitator Yves Paccalet, long-time companion of the late Jacques-Yves Cousteau and author, gave the floor to OceanFutures’ CEO Jean-Michel Cousteau who spoke in support of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition goals.
Notes: (1) The conference was co-sponsored by the Association 4D, Conservation International and Greenpeace France. (2) The renowned National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, also runs coalition member, Conservation International’s Marine Program and will attend a Wilderness Congress in Alaska to further promote deep sea conservation on her way to New York for the UN General Assembly negotiations on oceans issues beginning on 5 October. (3) Conference participants pictured in above photograph from right to left: First row includes: France’s Roving Ambassador for the Environment Denys Gauer, Yves Paccalet, author and long-time companion of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Second row includes: Underwater architect Jacques Rougerie, Oceanfutures CEO Jean-Michel Cousteau, Oceanographic Institute Director Lucien Laubier, Conservation International’s Sylvia Earle, DSCC’s Adviser Rémi Parmentier, author Hugo Verlomme, film director and author Agnès Sinai. Third row includes: Green Cross International Vice-President Bertrand Charrier, DSCC Adviser Matthew Gianni, Sustainable Development NGO Director Emmanuel Prinet, Climate policy expert Hélène Connor. Fourth row includes: veteran environmental reporters Françoise Monier and Nadine Saunier Zuber, and book publishers Aline and Lionel Hoebeke and Prince Albert de Broglie. Last row includes: Fondation Ensemble Vice-President Jacqueline Délia, Greenpeace-France Director Pascal Hustings, and Greenpeace-France Ocean campaigner Frédéric Castell.