Letter from Spanish Minister to DSCC on new commitments in the South West Atlantic

Date: July 13, 2011

(Translated from Spanish)

Dear Matthew,

In response to your letter, I would like to inform you that on 4 April Spain presented to civil society the results of a commitment which we adopted in 2005 aimed at protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems, taking into account sustainability and biodiversity.  In 2005, Spain decided to identify and locate VMEs in areas where the Spanish fleet was operating in order to protect deep-sea fisheries as a socio-economic activity without harming VMEs.  This commitment entailed both the involvement of a large number of scientists, mainly coming from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, and a great economic investment every year.

The continued effort Spain has put into achieving the objectives set by the International community at the UN has been valuable.  After five years of study, I was pleased to inaugurate the Workshop on Sustainable Deep-Sea Fisheries, which made public all the investigations carried out by our scientists, as well as the launch of our deep-sea cartography, and the improvement of knowledge of sustainable deep-sea fishing.

We have redoubled our efforts to study the area of the South West Atlantic, which is vulnerable since no RFMO has been established for political reasons. We developed a scientific study, on the deep seas in the SW Atlantic, which covered 59000km2 accounting for areas where footprint existed and areas where fising has been prohibited since 2009.

On 4 April, Spain published the results of the so-called project “Atlantis”.  The results showed that scientists managed to identify VMEs in 9 different areas and proposed protection of those areas, accounting for more than 41,000km2.

Hence, following our scientists’ advice and based on the State Fisheries Act 3/2001 and the Ministerial Order of 2 March 1982, we have adopted a new temporary license which prohibits fisheries in the 9 areas mentioned above and applies to all licenses expedited as from 1 July.

We hope that other flag States operating in the same area of the Atlantic will follow our decision, which aims at protecting a common oceanic good.  Spain will publish the results of the study at the international level and appreciates any support on this.  It is necessary to adopt a multilateral compromise in this regard so that what is currently a unilateral decision becomes completely effective in the future.

Finally, we hope that the UN Workshop this coming September allows all of us (i.e. scientists, officers, and civil society representatives) to analyze implementation by States and RFMOs, identify existing problems, and find effective solutions.  In order to protect something it is crucial to know it first, so we believe the international community will take into account our efforts in creating a deep-sea cartography, and will consider it as an innovative instrument to achieve our shared objective of protecting the ocean.

All the best,

Rosa Aguilar Rivero.