Deep-Sea Fishing Nations Must Make Progress on Protecting Sensitive Ecosystems at NAFO Annual Meeting

Date: September 20, 2021
Roundnose grenadier. Photo credit: NOAA


Amsterdam: September 20, 2021

 The Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) opens today. The Deep Sea Conservation is calling on the member countries of NAFO to agree to close seamounts and all areas identified by the Scientific Council of NAFO such as deepwater coral and sponge ecosystems to bottom trawling. 

NAFO is responsible for managing bottom fisheries on the high seas of the Northwest Atlantic.  This year, scientists have advised that all seamounts and related ‘underwater features’ within the NAFO Convention Area be closed to bottom fishing. Scientists have also completed a review of existing fisheries closures to assess whether they are adequate to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, including deep-sea habitat-forming species such as sponges and corals. 

“Following initial progress in the previous decade,  NAFO has since dragged its feet on implementing scientific advice on protecting deep-sea habitats.”

Matthew Gianni, Policy Advisor to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, an observer to NAFO. 

All NAFO member countries have signed up to repeated global commitments adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, beginning in 2006, to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas from the harmful impacts of bottom fishing, in particular bottom trawling. 

“Given the continued ringing of alarm bells on the state of the world’s biodiversity, it is imperative that countries who fish on the high seas live up to their UN commitments to make sure that biodiversity is protected and our ocean can continue to be resilient and support healthy fisheries,” says Gianni. “There is absolutely no reason to continue destroying species and habitats that may take hundreds or thousands of years to recover”. 

The DSCC is expecting Contracting Parties to NAFO to agree to all recommended additions to closed areas, a full closure of all seamounts and related features, further conservation measures for Greenland Shark, and adherence to science advice for all regulated fisheries. 

The NAFO meeting ends on September 24th. The Member countries (Contracting Parties) are Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union,  France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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