Challenging Deep-Sea Fishing

Since 2004, the DSCC has been acting on international concerns over the harmful impacts of deep-sea bottom trawling. The DSCC’s advocacy has led to the adoption of a series of resolutions by the UN General Assembly, beginning in 2004, calling for urgent action to protect deep-sea ecosystems from the harmful impacts of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas. The resolutions in turn have prompted significant improvements to international law, policy and regulations to manage high seas fisheries to protect deep-sea ecosystems but more needs to be done.

DSCC is currently aiming to ensure that:

  • Seamount ecosystems in the high seas are protected from bottom trawling;
  • States honor their United Nations commitments to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems on the high seas from the harmful impacts of bottom fishing;
  • Regulations adopted by the EU in 2016 to manage deep-sea fishing in the Northeast Atlantic are effectively implemented; 
  • Protection of the deep sea is effectively addressed in the high seas treaty currently being negotiated at the United Nations.

The DSCC is calling for the following:

High seas fishing nations and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to:

  • Effectively conserve and protect deep-sea species and ecosystems by implementing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions on deep-sea fisheries, specifically, to:
  • Effectively implement the precautionary approach and protect all areas from the harmful impacts of deep-sea fishing, in particular bottom trawl fishing, where vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems are known or likely to occur;
  • Conduct comprehensive and legitimate environmental impact assessments of deep-sea fisheries consistent with internationally agreed criteria;
  • Ensure that the catch of deep-sea species is sustainable and that the bycatch of non-target species is eliminated, in particular the bycatch of vulnerable, threatened or endangered species.

The United Nations General Assembly to:

  • Continue to conduct regular  reviews of the performance of individual RFMOs in the implementation of the UN resolutions;
  • In the next UNGA review (2021), ensure all high seas fishing nations and RFMOs are effectively implementing the resolutions adopted over the past 15 years and where this has not been done ensure the States and RFMOs that permit deep-sea fisheries on high seas are held globally accountable.

The European Union to ensure the implementation of the EU deep-sea fisheries regulation adopted in 2016, in particular that:

  • The procedures for annual identification of vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) areas are based on the best scientific information possible, that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) makes clear recommendations for area closures on the basis of the precautionary approach, and that the area closures are effectively and expeditiously adopted by the Commission;
  • No authorizations are issued by EU Member States for fishing using bottom trawl gear below 800 meters depth;
  • Appropriate mechanisms are in place for monitoring, control and surveillance to ensure compliance with the prohibition of bottom trawling below 800 meters and the bottom fisheries area closures to protect VMEs;
  • The bottom fisheries footprint is urgently established as the deadline for completion was 13 January 2018;
  • Closures are begun, as a priority, on areas where VMEs are known or likely to occur, as the deadline for doing so was January 2018;
  • Member states establish observer programs as required, and that these programs collect sufficient data on a timely basis to allow for the collection of information on the catch and bycatch of deep-sea species and impacts on VMEs. The deadline for a proper evaluation of the programs was January 2018.

The government of New Zealand to ban deep-sea bottom trawling on seamounts, oceanic ridge systems and other deep-sea areas of the high seas by the New Zealand fishing industry.