Australian support for protection of deep sea life from high seas bottom trawling

Date: September 22, 2006

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) has welcomed today’s announcement by the Australian Government that it will support interim measures at this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to stop unregulated destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling on the high seas. DSCC Australia Coordinator, Ms Lyn Goldsworthy, called the decision an essential first step towards protecting deep sea biodiversity saying “that high seas bottom trawling continues to wipe out the undiscovered worlds of our deep seas”.

“Today’s announcement is very significant as Australia has been wavering on this issue for quite some time. The Government is now clearly acknowledging the destructive environmental impacts of high seas bottom trawling on vulnerable marine ecosystems, the need for immediate action and the need for long-term protection and sustainable management,” she said. Australia has indicated it will advocate an immediate prohibition on high seas bottom trawling in unregulated areas.

In areas where Regional Fisheries Management Organisations are under negotiation, it will call for prohibitions from 1 August 2007. In areas where existing management regimes are in place, Australia will call for a prohibition from 1 January 2008 unless and until management authorities can satisfactorily demonstrate they have appropriate conservation controls in place. Australia is proposing strong criteria for lifting the prohibitions and strong compliance measures. “We are particularly pleased that Australia will take a leadership role at the United Nations negotiating table on this issue,” said Mr Danny Kennedy Campaigns Manager Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “But there are hurdles. The Australian position still leaves areas of the high seas open to plunder for another six months to a year and the devil will be in the detail of mechanisms and criteria to lift the interim prohibitions to ensure they do protect deep sea ecosystems.”

As political momentum towards a moratorium this year grows, boosted by the significant shift in Australia’s position, the EU is increasingly lagging behind international political will. “In line with many other countries around the world, the Australian Government is clearly acknowledging the need for immediate and effective action and bringing political policy in line with public concern. It is time for the EU to do the same,” said DSCC Coordinator Kelly Rigg. The UNGA negotiations on the issue of high seas bottom trawling will commence on October 4th, prior to formal decisions in November.

The DSCC is calling for an immediate global moratorium on all high seas bottom trawling to allow time for scientific research of deep sea habitats to be conducted and until sustainable management measures are implemented.

Notes to correspondents: The European Union is represented by the Commission at UN negotiations on fisheries. Despite the many individual European States which support a comprehensive high seas moratorium, the Commission is advocating for a case by case approach, protecting only known vulnerable ecosystems. Since the vast majority of the high seas are unexplored, there is no way of knowing where the ‘vulnerable areas’ are, which will effectively result in fishing as usual. Commissioner Dimas spoke out against the EU’s current position on a moratorium in an interview with Agence France Press.

Contact: Australia: Clare Henderson (DSCC) on 0419 266 110 Europe: Mirella von Lindenfels on + 44 (0) 7717 844 352