Deep-sea species given short shrift in European Commission’s fisheries proposal

Date: May 17, 2010

– Brussels.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition expressed dismay at the publication today of the European Commission’s Communication on fishing opportunities in EU waters in 2011.
“We’re dismayed to see no reference in the Communication to United Nations requirements to manage deep-sea fisheries on the high seas which were agreed by the EU at the UN General Assembly in 2009” said Matthew Gianni, Advisor to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.  “The UN agreement must be the basis for the setting of TACs and quotas and other measures for deep-sea fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic. To propose anything less represents a failure by the Commission to follow through on the EU’s international commitments.”

United Nations General Assembly resolution 64/72, adopted in December 2009, commits the EU and other high seas fishing nations to ensure the sustainable exploitation of deep-sea species on the high seas, conduct prior environmental impact assessments of deep-sea fisheries, and to close areas where vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems such as cold-water coral reefs are known or likely to occur, or else not authorize such fisheries to take place.

The Communication only states that decisions on fishing effort for deep-sea species will be based on the management regime adopted by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). While NEAFC has closed a number of high seas areas to bottom fishing, the NEAFC regime has consistently failed to prevent the depletion of deep-sea fish stocks.  Some 40-50 species are taken in these fisheries including endangered species of deep-sea sharks. ICES has advised that all fisheries for deep-sea species in the Northeast Atlantic are outside safe biological limits and that discarding and misreporting reporting of catches are major problems. In 2005 ICES called for a complete overhaul of the management of deep-sea fisheries.  The Commission, in a review of deep-sea fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic in 2007, concluded that “many deep-sea stocks have such low productivity that sustainable levels of exploitation are probably too low to support an economically viable fishery”.

Note to the Editor:

1. The UN General Assembly, in paragraphs 119-120 of resolution 64/72 adopted in December 2009, commits all nations whose vessels engage in deep-sea fishing on the high seas to conduct impact assessments of deep-sea fisheries to ensure long-term sustainability of all species, both ‘target’ and ‘bycatch’, through conducting stock assessments and assessing the cumulative impacts of deep-sea fisheries. The resolution calls on nations to prevent or not authorize deep-sea fishing until the conditions of the resolution are met.

2    Review of the management of deep-sea fish stocks. Brussels, 29.1.2007 COM(2007) 30 final.  Section 4. “Conclusions”

Jo Frost
+447736 032430


Matthew Gianni
+316 46 16 88 99