The Main Players

These are the key players that are currently important in the field of deep-sea fishing.

High seas deep-sea fishing nations 

Nations that permit their flagged vessels to engage in deep-sea fisheries on the high seas include Australia, Cook Islands, Cuba,  Faroe Islands,  Japan,  New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Korea and Spain. 

Deep-sea bottom trawling on seamounts and other underwater features

Countries whose vessels have continued  to deep-sea bottom-trawl fish on seamounts, oceanic ridge systems and other underwater features on the high seas in recent years are New Zealand, Japan, Cook Islands,  Spain, Korea, and the Faroe Islands.

Seamounts at Risk

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and Regional Seas Organizations

These are the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and bodies that manage deep-sea fisheries on the high seas:

  • North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)
  • South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO)
  • General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
  • North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC)
  • South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO)
  • South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA)
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

United Nations bodies 

UN bodies involved in deep-sea fishing issues include:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which adopts resolutions on sustainable fisheries, oceans and the law of the sea on an annual basis. The UNGA has adopted a series of resolutions committing States, both individually and through RFMOs, to protect deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas and hold periodic reviews of implementation of these resolutions, with the next one scheduled in 2020.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), whose Conference of Parties sets the agenda for key biodiversity protection and management issues 
  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), including its Committee on Fisheries (COFI) – an intergovernmental forum where States and stakeholders examine major international fisheries and aquaculture issues and where international agreements on fisheries are negotiated.

The European Union

Through the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers, the EU adopts and implements legislation to manage deep-sea fleets and fisheries.

The deep-sea fishing industry

“Nations that permit their flagged vessels to engage in deep-sea bottom fisheries on the high seas include Australia, Canada, Chile, Cook Islands, Cuba, Faroe Islands, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay. However, the majority of these countries only authorize their vessels to fish using deep-sea bottom longline or pot gear and/or fish on continental shelf and slope areas. These methods of fishing can be damaging to deep-sea ecosystems and catch vulnerable species such as deep-sea sharks and must be tightly regulated and monitored.  However, the more damaging form of bottom fishing in the deep sea is bottom trawling, particularly on seamounts, oceanic ridge systems and other so-called ‘underwater features’.” (link to the page on damage caused by deep-sea bottom trawling).


“A growing group of scientists is also actively studying the deep sea (about which we still have so little information) and the potential impacts that mining would have at depth. Some of the scientists are affiliated with national agencies and/or corporations with a commercial interest in deep-sea mining that are prospecting and exploring for deep-sea minerals, in which case their findings are often kept confidential though several such companies have allowed scientists working for them to publish their findings. Others conduct their work in the context of regional or global initiatives or groupings which make their findings publicly available. These include the MIDAS Project, the JPI Oceans MiningImpact I & II projects, the Abyssal Biological Baseline Project; the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative, and INDEEP – a global network of deep-sea scientists, among others.”

Civil society

The DSCC, representing over 80 organizations worldwide, continues to provide a platform for civil society, including NGOs, fish-workers’ groups and law and policy institutes. We work in close co-operation with major national and international players on high seas conservation.