Representatives from countries throughout the South Pacific plus the European Union (EU), Japan, Russia, China, the US and others will meet next week in Renaca, Chile to discuss a new regime for the management of one of the largest unregulated areas of ocean in the world.
With the exception of the tuna fishery in the region, the South Pacific high seas are essentially ‘free-for-all’ fisheries, without limits or controls. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is calling on negotiators to abide by the consensus Resolution for the protection of deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas agreed by the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) at the end of last year. This Resolution requires countries involved in the South Pacific negotiations to ensure that no detrimental impacts to vulnerable ecosystems will occur or else to prohibit high seas bottom fishing by December 2007.
The UN GA called for the closure of high seas areas to bottom fishing, where cold-water corals and other sensitive species are known or ‘likely’ to occur and said that decision-making must be informed by assessments of whether individual bottom fishing activities would have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems. Matthew Gianni of the DSCC said, “The ink is barely dry on the UN GA Resolution. We expect States to meet their own deadline for agreeing to protection measures, and to prove that their bottom trawl fleets will not damage deep-sea ecosystems. If they can’t, they must stop fishing, full stop.” Bottom trawl fleets from New Zealand and other coastal and distant water fleets have increasingly expanded onto the high seas of the South Pacific as orange roughy, a prized fish largely exported to the United States, has been depleted within coastal waters. “This vast area of ocean is riddled with vulnerable ecosystems. The world’s leading seamount scientists and experts on cold water coral have documented this,1” Gianni continued. “It is essential that a regime is adopted which protects fish stocks as well as the ecosystems in which they live, and in so doing, breaks the mould of most regional fisheries management regimes which have failed to do either. It’s time to do things in a better way – the South Pacific is an opportunity for a new, genuinely effective approach to managing fisheries and protecting biodiversity on the high seas.” The last negotiating session for the South Pacific was held in November 2006, before the UN GA Resolution was agreed. During this session, effective protection measures were torpedoed by the EU, Russia and South Korea. Gianni: “Since that meeting, the international community, including the EU, Russia and South Korea, has signed up to the UN GA Resolution. There is now no excuse for failure or further delay.” 1) The South Pacific is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the planet. A recent report published by UNEP, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Census of Marne Life concluded that cold-water corals are likely to be found on seamounts across the region at the depths targeted by bottom trawl fishing fleets.
NOTES The meeting to negotiate a new Regional Fisheries Management Organization for the South Pacific begins on Monday 30th April and end of Friday 4th May. The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/61/105 by consensus on 8 December 2006. Paragraphs 80-91 of the Resolution establish the international agreement for action on high seas bottom fishing.
http://www.un.org/Depts/los/general_assembly/general_assembly_resolutions.htm The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is an alliance of over 50 international organizations, representing millions of people in countries around the world, which is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Photos of deep-sea coral taken by a New Zealand trawler operating on the South Pacific high seas can be found at:
CONTACTS Matthew Gianni attending the meeting in Chile: + 31 646 16 88 99 Mirella von Lindenfels in the UK: + 44 7717 844 352