Fisheries organizations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans fail their end of year report

Date: December 10, 2007

As the United Nations General Assembly holds its annual Fisheries and Oceans Debate today, a new End of Year Report reveals that the majority of fisheries treaty organisations are failing to take urgent actions called for by the General Assembly in 2006 to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) assessed the work of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and RFMOs under negotiation against the requirements of the 2006 United Nations resolution on deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.

In 2006, the General Assembly called on States and RFMOs to close areas of the high seas to bottom fisheries where seamounts, deep-sea corals and other biologically rich and vulnerable habitats are likely to occur. The General Assembly also called on all high seas fishing nations to conduct environmental impact assessments to ensure that their fishing vessels are not damaging deep-sea ecosystems nor depleting vulnerable deep-sea species such as orange roughy, grenadiers, and deep-water sharks.

The General Assembly has scheduled a review in 2009 of the performance of RFMOs in implementing the 2006 resolution. The DSCC report concludes that most progress has been made by countries involved in the Southern Ocean fisheries around Antarctica and in the South Pacific and Northwest Pacific Ocean where multilateral agreements and regulations largely consistent with the UN resolution have been adopted this year. In the Pacific, New Zealand and Japan have the largest high seas, deep-sea fleets and both countries have shown leadership in negotiating multilateral agreements; however full implementation remains to be seen in 2008. In the North Atlantic, where the majority of the high seas bottom fishing worldwide currently takes place, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation and the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission have postponed negotiations on implementing the UN General Assembly resolution until mid 2008. Both organizations have agreed to temporarily close some high seas areas but so far have failed to adopt comprehensive regulations to protect deep-sea species and biodiversity in the region. European Union and Russian bottom trawl fleets dominate the North Atlantic high seas bottom fisheries. The South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) also failed to adopt comprehensive measures in spite of the recommendation of the Scientific Committee of SEAFO to suspend all high seas bottom trawl and bottom gillnet fishing until proper environmental impact assessments could be conducted. By far the region with the worst performance was the Indian Ocean. High seas fishing nations have failed to adopt any measures to regulate bottom fishing in the international waters of the region. “High seas fishing nations made a commitment to the international community in 2006 to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems, and while good progress has been made in the Pacific, the implementation of last year’s resolution in the Atlantic has been mixed at best and a total failure in the Indian Ocean” said Matthew Gianni, spokesperson for the DSCC. “Any other industry with the potential for the scale of damage to the environment associated with deep-sea bottom trawl fishing would be subject to strict environmental regulations. The 2006 General Assembly blueprint for action provides a global opportunity to bring deep-sea fishing into the 21st century – the sooner the better for both the industry and the environment.” The 2007 Oceans Resolution being discussed by the United Nations today reiterates the importance of full implementation of the 2006 Resolution which, if adhered to by States and RFMOs, would deliver genuine protection for vulnerable deep sea ecosystems.

Contact: For further information please contact: Mirella von Lindenfels on + 44 7717 844 352 in the UK Matthew Gianni + 31 646 168899