Deep-sea species and ecosystems on the high seas remain at risk

Date: September 16, 2011

The workshop to review implementation of United Nations General Assembly resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 has concluded after two days of robust discussion between the representatives of States, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the deep-sea fishing industry and marine scientists.  The workshop led to a greater understanding of the threats to deep-sea ecosystems and challenges to managing deep-sea fisheries.  However, it also demonstrated that deep-sea fishing countries and RFMOs have not fully implemented the UN General Assembly resolutions and many deep-sea species and ecosystems on the high seas remain at risk. Views on the extent to which the resolutions in question have been implemented were, inevitably, divergent.   A number of scientists and NGOs made a strong case that the implementation of measures to protect the deep sea have been inadequate.   Those tasked with implementation of the UN resolutions —RFMOs and States—offered a more favorable interpretation.

The notes of the meeting will now be developed into a report as part of the review process conducted by the UN.  The outcomes of the review will be reflected in the General Assembly Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries to be adopted later this year.  Negotiations re-open in November.

Duncan Currie of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “This was an open and constructive debate and enhances the role of the General Assembly in exercising oversight over the conservation and protection of biodiversity on the high seas – the world’s global commons.  We clearly heard the scientific community question whether deep-sea bottom fishing, in particular bottom trawling, can be sustainable. It was incredibly important that those voices were heard by the UN at this time and that those States responsible for regulating high seas bottom fishing had to offer an account of their efforts and shortcomings.”

Mr Currie continued, “We now look to the UN General Assembly to reinforce the call to all high seas fishing nations, and the regional fisheries bodies that manage fishing to ensure a full, effective and transparent implementation of the UN resolutions to protect marine biodiversity and deep sea stocks. Compliance is crucial.  If there is no full implementation, there must be no fishing.”