Pew urges reforms to deep-sea fishing regulations

Date: January 26, 2012

Damanaki to Release European Commission Deep-Sea Access Regime Proposal

The Pew Environment Group today encouraged the European Commission to implement significant reforms to EU deep-sea fishing regulations. The Commission is preparing to release its deep-sea access regime proposal before the end of the first quarter of 2012.

In a new policy analysis, “Out of the Abyss: Transforming EU Rules to Protect the Deep Sea,” which summarizes current problems in the oversight and control of EU deep-sea fisheries in the northeast Atlantic, Pew offers viable solutions to ensure the sustainability and protection of threatened deep-sea biodiversity.

Key reforms include:

•    Phasing out the use of destructive bottom fishing practices and gear;

•    Requiring impact assessments to be performed prior to permitting deep-sea fishing;

•    Implementing area closures where deep-sea fishing is likely to cause harm to vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as cold-water corals and sponges; and

•    Reducing bycatch (the capture of non-target wildlife) of deep-sea species and ending discarding.

“With one of the largest deep-sea fishing fleets in the world, the EU is in a unique position to assert global leadership in protecting vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems from the harmful impact of bottom fishing ,” said Matthew Gianni, deep sea policy adviser to the Pew Environment Group. “Commissioner Damanaki must stand strong in her beliefs and use this proposal as a means to phase out destructive fishing practices, such as deep-sea bottom trawling.”

As the Pew analysis indicates, various assessments have found the EU’s deep-sea fisheries management regime is inadequate, poorly enforced, and inconsistent with international agreements and legal obligations for the sustainable management of fisheries. Numerous scientific studies have concluded that deep-sea bottom trawl fishing poses the greatest threat to vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, the intergovernmental scientific body charged with advising the EU on fisheries issues,  estimates that the catch of deep-water fish in the northeast Atlantic by EU fleets is entirely ‘outside safe biological limits’ and has recommended that fishing for deep-sea species should be significantly reduced or ended entirely.


•    “Out of the Abyss: Transforming EU Rules to Protect the Deep Sea” can be found here.
•    Deep-Sea Fishing in the Northeast Atlantic fact sheet.
•    International Council for the Exploration of the Seas: ICES Advice 2010, Book Status of fish stocks managed by the Community in the Northeast Atlantic. pg 3 (

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