Effective action on bottom trawling scuttled in the final hours of negotiations

Date: November 23, 2006

UN fisheries negotiations ran into early this morning as delegates worked to find a compromise. They were looking at text which would have offered immediate protection for vulnerable areas in the absence of agreement on a global moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Even this compromise was derailed by Iceland.

Kelly Rigg of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) said, “The majority of the world’s governments fought hard to protect the biodiversity of the deep oceans from high seas bottom trawling. That tidal wave of change will not be held back for long.” Lisa Speer of the Natural Resources Defense Council (a member of the DSCC who attended the negotiations) said: “We are deeply disappointed that a broad consensus for protecting the world’s oceans was thwarted by Iceland and a handful of recalcitrant fishing nations. In contrast, Australia, the US, the UK, Norway, Palau and other Pacific Island States, Brazil, New Zealand, and many others deserve enormous credit for their efforts to stop unregulated destruction of high seas fisheries and habitats. It is now up to consumers, seafood purveyors and conservationists around the world to vote with their wallets.

That will send a clear message to the ocean plunderers that their days are numbered.” Although deeply disappointed that a moratorium was torpedoed by a few rogue states, the DSCC pointed to the seismic shift which is occurring in the politics of high seas fisheries management, in no small part due to the high seas bottom trawling campaign. “For the first time, the UN has seriously looked into how to protect marine life across the international waters of the high seas. Regional fishing bodies have been served notice that they must stop managing individual fish stocks, start looking at the ecosystem as a whole and take precautionary measures,” said Kelly Rigg, DSCC Coordinator. Karen Sack of DSCC member Greenpeace International, pointed to the handful of countries which blocked proposals for a more comprehensive global moratorium. These included Iceland, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Russia and Spain. In the end, all but Iceland were prepared to compromise. She said, “regardless of the actions of Iceland, there is a clear and demonstrable will by most states to manage the global commons differently for the good of the planet rather than just for the benefit of a few distant water fishing fleets.

This isn’t the end of the story – it’s just the beginning. Proposals on the table for no-take zones, marine protected areas, reform of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and the elimination of destructive fishing practices, will ensure that these voices continue to be heard.” The text is part of a broader resolution on sustainable fisheries, which will be formally adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 7th during its annual ‘debate’ on oceans.

The DSCC is calling on States to use that opportunity to announce what they will do in the absence of a consensus agreement on strong measures. Kelly Rigg: “The support of the global public, the scientific community and the growing membership of the DSCC have all contributed to an overwhelming call to put the interests of the few aside, in favour of protecting the global commons. On behalf of the DSCC I would like to thank them, and the Ministers who listened to them, for working to save the deep seas.” The DSCC is a coalition of more than 60 environmental and conservation organisations worldwide.

Notes: The final text of the resolution is not yet available. Once it is, the DSCC will respond in greater detail to the position which the UN General Assembly is being asked to take on December 7th.

Contact: For further information please contact:
Mirella von Lindenfels + 447717 844 352 (London)
Kelly Rigg + 31 621 296 917 (Amsterdam)
Karen Sack +1202 4155403 (New York)
Lisa Speer +1 (203) 249-0906 (New York)

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