European Community, South Korea and Russia sink international effort to protect South Pacific from high seas bottom trawling

Date: November 10, 2006

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has condemned northern fishing nations, the European Community, South Korea, and Russia for blocking measures which would have protected deep-sea life in the South Pacific. Those participants stubbornly opposed attempts by countries negotiating a new regional fisheries management organisation to put in place strong measures, including measures that would have protected vulnerable marine ecosystems from the damage caused by bottom trawl fishing in international waters.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), a coalition representing more than 60 conservation organizations from around the world, is calling for urgent action to address bottom trawling in deep sea fisheries, a practice scientists say is destroying some of the world’s rarest and most sensitive ocean habitats. The meeting in Hobart this week, which concluded today, to establish a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) follows an initial meeting in Wellington in February.

The meeting also comes two weeks after Nadi Declaration issued by the Pacific Islands Forum nations called on members of the Pacific Islands Forum to advocate for an interim prohibition on bottom trawling until international conservation measures are in place. The United Nations General Assembly is due to decide on actions needed to protect vanishing deep sea ecosystems later this month. Duncan Currie, spokesperson for the DSCC, said “the meeting should have decided to protect the irreplaceable ecosystems of the deep sea bed from the relentless march of bottom trawlers.

Sadly, northern fishing States, in particular South Korea, Russia and the EC repeatedly refused to agree to successive proposals, supported by Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Pacific Island States and the United States and others and to put multilateral measures into place which would have aimed to protect deep sea life while the South Pacific RFMO is being negotiated over the next several years.” “Scientists in the region have over the past few years discovered a wealth of new and exotic species inhabiting the deep seas in the South Pacific region,” added Currie. “At the same time the scientific community has expressed real concern over the damage to deep sea life from bottom trawl fishing, including the risk of species extinctions.”

Deep water coral reefs can live for eight thousand years. Scientists warn these slow-growing species cannot readily recover from over-fishing. The fisheries for deep-sea fish like orange roughy, which can live to 125 years, are also highly unsustainable. Only yesterday the Australian government placed orange roughy on a threatened species list. The DSCC is a Coalition of over 60 conservation and environmental organizations around the world, calling for an international moratorium (interim prohibition) on high seas bottom trawling.

Contact: For more information contact: In Hobart:
Duncan Currie, DSCC on +64 21 632 335
Matthew Gianni, DSCC on +31 646 168 899
Mike Hagler, Greenpeace on +64 21 321 379 In the UK:
Mirella von Lindenfels on ++ 44 7717 844 352