Protecting Deep Seas on the High Seas

Date: April 9, 2012

Source: The Ocean Foundation

Author: Wendy Williams

How much progress the world is making in controlling “illegal” deep-sea fishing on the high seas depends on your perspective, Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition told scientists at last week’s Fifth International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals.

“If you ask the policy people, they say it’s astonishing what been accomplished in such a short period of time,” Gianni, a former Greenpeace activist, told me over lunch after his presentation, “but if you ask the conservationists, they have a different opinion.”

Gianni defined the “high seas” as ocean areas beyond waters claimed by individual nations. By this definition, he said, about two-thirds of the oceans are defined as “high seas” and are subject to international law and a variety of treaties.

Over the past decade, a number of international bodies, like the United Nations General Assembly, have agreed upon various rules and regulations that restrict fishing in some areas with “vulnerable marine ecosystems” like fragile cold water corals.

Deep-sea corals, which are extremely long-lived and may take hundreds or even thousands of years to grow, are often pulled up as by-catch by the bottom trawlers.

But, Gianni told scientists, not enough has been done. Some scoff-law boats and even the nations which flag such boats could be tried in already extant international courts, but prosecutors have been reluctant to take such steps, he said.

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To download Mr Gianni’s full presentation, click here.

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