Failure to save the high seas exposed
New York, 3rd June 2011. A United Nations (UN) meeting on oceans biodiversity has heard how poorly high seas fishing nations have performed in implementing their commitments to ground breaking resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2009, designed to protect biodiversity in the deep sea.
The deep sea is considered one of the greatest reservoirs of biodiversity on earth, much of which lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Deep sea fishing, in particular deep-sea bottom trawl fishing, is recognized as the most serious direct threat to deep-sea ecosystems.
At the UN meeting, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) presented the preliminary findings of its third comprehensive review of implementation of the resolutions, highlighting serious failures to protect high seas biodiversity and deep-sea fish species.
To comply with the UN resolutions, fishing nations and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) committed to take certain measures to ensure that vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are protected and deep-sea fish species are not overexploited. If they cannot do so, they are required to stop fishing.
The DSCC findings clearly indicate that it is time for them to stop deep-sea fishing on the high seas until such time as the UN resolutions are fully implemented.
The main DSCC findings are:
• Most deep-sea fish stocks have been heavily depleted.
• With the exception of the RFMO covering the Antarctic (CCAMLR) all RFMOs and States have fallen so far short of the requirements as to warrant immediate closure of their deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.
• Some high seas areas have been closed to bottom fishing but many vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) remain open with few or no constraints.
• In response to pressure from the fishing industry there has been a general reluctance to close areas where most bottom fishing currently takes place, or has taken place in recent years.
• Failure to effectively implement the resolutions risks undermining the authority and efficacy of the UN General Assembly as the preeminent body with oversight and responsibility for the conservation and protection of the biodiversity of the global oceans commons. This would set an important negative precedent for a range of other issues likely to arise around governance of biodiversity outside national jurisdiction in the coming years.
• The UN General Assembly must make it clear to high seas bottom fishing nations that unless or until the resolutions have been fully and effectively implemented fishing must be prohibited. Other nations must declare that any fish caught in contravention of the resolutions should be considered illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU).
2011 is a critical year for biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries in the deep ocean. The UN General Assembly for the first time ever, will conduct an open review of regional and national actions to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction from the harmful impacts of bottom fishing.
Seas At Risk is a steering group member of the DSCC.
For the full DSCC press release:
More information on 'Save the High Seas'
Photograph courtesy of the DSCC