Time to Save the Northwest Atlantic

Date: September 24, 2007

As major fishing nations gather to determine the future of the Northwest Atlantic, members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition called upon states to implement the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) mandate for deep ocean protection.

Following progress in the South Pacific towards real protection on the water, attention now turns to NAFO (the Northwest Atlantic Regional Fisheries Management Organization) to deliver at least the same level of progress. The NAFO meeting, which begins on Monday (24 September 2007) involves twelve countries responsible for regulating high seas fisheries for highly depleted cod, redfish, grenadiers and other ‘groundfish’ species. Russian and European Union fleets dominate the high seas fisheries in the region, with Spain, Portugal and Estonia taking the bulk of the EU catch.

In 2006, the UN GA called on NAFO and other regional bodies to protect highly vulnerable and unique deep-sea ecosystems such as seamounts, cold-water corals and hydrothermal vents from the destructive impact of bottom fishing by no later than December 31 2008. These types of ecosystems are likely to be found throughout deep-sea areas in the Northwest Atlantic at depths accessible to fishing fleets. To meet the UN GA deadline, NAFO will have to agree to strong measures this year, including requiring environmental impact assessments of deep-sea fishing on the high seas and to begin identifying and closing vulnerable deep-sea areas to bottom impact fishing. “We don’t want to see the extraordinary life in the deep-sea go the way of Newfoundland cod” said Matthew Gianni of the DSCC, in reference to the collapse of the Grand Banks cod fishery off Newfoundand15 years ago.

“Deep-sea corals are extremely vulnerable to the destructive impact of bottom fishing and may take centuries or longer to recover, if at all.” The UN FAO released a report in 2006 analyzing the state of the fisheries in the international waters of the world’s oceans. The FAO report concluded that the majority of the fisheries managed by NAFO were overexploited or depleted. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) is a coalition of over 60 organizations worldwide working to protect deep-sea biodiversity. DSCC member organizations Ecology Action Center of Canada and Seas at Risk (an EU based coalition) will be attending the NAFO meeting.

Notes: Contracting parties to NAFO: Canada, Cuba, Denmark (on behalf of Faroes Islands and Greenland), European Union, France, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United States. Earlier this year the South Pacific RFMO meeting agreed to immediate measures to begin implementing the UN resolution. FAO report: “The state of world highly migratory, straddling, and other high seas fishery resources and associated species” UN FAO 2006. For further information please contact: Matthew Gianni attending NAFO on ++ 31 646 1688 99 or
Mirella von Lindenfels in the UK on ++ 44 7717 844 352