In an important move for the future of the deep seas, the Pacific Islands Forum has declared its support of a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. The Heads of State and Government of the sixteen Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) countries announced their decision at the thirty-sixth annual leaders meeting in Nadi, Fiji this week.
The PIF Declaration states that the countries will advocate for prohibitions on bottom trawling and other destructive fishing practices in international waters until appropriate conservation and management measures are in place. “Pacific leaders have once again been at the forefront of international action to protect the oceans,” said Duncan Currie who represented the DSCC at the meeting. “The Tarawa Declaration of 1989 by the Pacific Islands Forum led to the ban on driftnetting by the UN GA later that year.”
Palau was the first Pacific Island state to raise the issue at the Forum in 2005, the country’s President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., said “Bottom trawling is a very destructive practice which exposes our fish stocks and our biodiversity as a whole to serious risk. Unregulated deep sea bottom trawling must be stopped before irreversible damage is done.” The PIF includes countries which have already declared a strong position in favor of a moratorium at the United Nations negotiations currently underway, such as Australia and New Zealand. “The Nadi Declaration puts the world on notice that our Pacific leaders will act decisively to protect our oceans from this existential threat,” said Palau’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Stuart Beck. “Not since the PIF leaders called upon the world in Tarawa in 1989 to end driftnet fishing have we been so strongly united. We have no choice but to fight hard in the months ahead.” Confirming its position as pro-moratorium, the United States also issued a letter to United Nations delegations this week, stating “President Bush has clearly stated that our delegation should work with other countries and international organizations to eliminate destructive fishing practices that jeopardize fish stocks or the habitats that support them.
Of particular concern are practices such as unregulated bottom trawling when they occur in areas of the high seas where there are no applicable conservation or management measures or in areas with no applicable international fishery management organization or agreement. We believe such practices should be prohibited until such time as conservation and management measures consistent with the goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, and other relevant instruments are adopted and implemented to regulate such vessels and fisheries.” The negotiations re-start on November 17th. Kelly Rigg of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “The eyes of the world are watching. This is a unique opportunity for the international community to preserve our global commons for the benefit of all humankind. The alternative is to allow a handful of fishing nations to hold our global leaders to hostage for the sake of their sole gain.”