DSCC presents preliminary findings at UN General Assembly

Date: June 2, 2011

A United Nations (UN) meeting on oceans biodiversity will today hear how poorly high seas fishing nations have performed in implementing their commitments to ground breaking resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2009, designed to protect biodiversity in the deep sea.

The deep sea, much of which lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction, is one of the greatest reservoirs of biodiversity on earth. Deep sea fishing, in particular deep-sea bottom trawl fishing, is recognized as the most serious direct threat to deep-sea ecosystems. Offering the preliminary findings of its third comprehensive review of implementation of the resolutions , the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) will highlight serious failures to protect high seas biodiversity and deep-sea fish species. Matthew Gianni of the DSCC said, “Fishing nations have had five years to get their houses in order and fulfil the clear commitments they have made to protect the deep seas. They haven’t done so across most of the ocean. Until they do, the fishing must stop.” To comply with the UN resolutions, fishing nations and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) committed to take certain measures to ensure that vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are protected and deep-sea fish species are not overexploited. If they cannot do so, they are required to stop fishing. The DSCC findings clearly indicate that it is time for them to stop deep-sea fishing on the high seas. Lisa Speer, of DSCC member Natural Resource Defence Council, said, “It’s time for the rest of the world to hold nations and RFMOs, that allow their vessels to fish in a manner contrary to the UN resolutions on bottom fishing, accountable for their actions.  Fishing which does not follow the resolutions should be considered illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU).  Conscientious consumers and markets should reject IUU fish.” The main DSCC findings are:

  • Most deep-sea fisheries have been heavily depleted.
  • With the exception of the RFMO covering the Antarctic (CCAMLR) all RFMOs and States have fallen so far short of the requirements as to warrant immediate closure of their deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.
  • Some high seas areas have been closed to bottom fishing but many vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) remain open with few or no constraints.
  • In response to pressure from the fishing industry there has been a general reluctance to close areas where most bottom fishing currently takes place, or has taken place in recent years.
  • Failure to effectively implement the resolutions risks undermining the authority and efficacy of the UN General Assembly as the preeminent body with oversight and responsibility for the conservation and protection of the biodiversity of the global oceans commons. This would set an important negative precedent for a range of other issues likely to arise around governance of biodiversity outside national jurisdiction in the coming years.
  • The UN General Assembly must make it clear to high seas bottom fishing nations that unless or until the resolutions have been fully and effectively implemented fishing must be prohibited. Other nations must declare that any fish caught in contravention of the resolutions should be considered IUU.

2011 is a critical year for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the deep ocean. The UN General Assembly for the first time ever, will conduct an open review of regional and national actions to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction from the harmful impacts of bottom fishing. NOTES The preliminary findings of the report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) 31 May-3 June, 2011 New York, UN Headquarters DSCC was founded in 2004, to address the issue of bottom trawling on the high seas in the absence of an effective governance regime. The coalition is made up of over 70 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), fishers organisations and law and policy institutes, committed to protecting the deep sea. A coordination team works together with a Steering Group that currently consists of, Ecology Action Centre, Greenpeace International, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Environment Group and Seas at Risk Download the review For further information please contact Matthew Gianni +31646168899 E: matthewgianni@netscape.com