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15, Sep, 2011

FIVE YEARS ON – NEW REPORTS SHOW FISHING NATIONS STILL FLOUTING UN PROTECTION


Category: News

Many countries are failing to implement vital United Nations (UN) resolutions designed to protect vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems, according to two reports released today ahead of a debate on deep-sea fisheries by the UN in New York (15 – 16 September).

In spite of successive UN resolutions calling for urgent action, countries such as South Korea, Russia, Cook Islands, Spain, Portugal, France, Australia, New Zealand and Japan continue to allow their vessels to fish the deep-ocean in international waters using bottom trawl gear, a highly damaging fishing technique, with devastating implications for the future of deep-sea marine life in the world's oceans.

A workshop of marine scientists representing institutions from around the world has concluded that highly vulnerable and unique deep sea ecosystems remain unprotected, five years after the UN General Assembly (GA) took action to protect them.

Organised under the auspices of the Hermione Project, together with leading universities and marine scientific initiatives, the workshop examined implementation of two UN GA Resolutions (61/105 and 64/72), which sought to conserve vulnerable deep-sea species and protect fragile deep-sea habitats on the high seas. The first of these resolutions was adopted by the UN GA in 2006 and committed regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and fishing nations to fully implement regulations to protect deep-sea ecosystems and species within two years. The conclusion of the workshop is that five years later they still have not done so.

Professor Phil Weaver of the Centre said, "It's been five years and the deep seas' remarkable array of coral, sponge, fish, crustacean and other species, most of which are still unknown to science, remain at risk. This cannot be what the UN GA intended."

A second report published today by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) draws similarly damning conclusions. The DSCC found that fishing states and RFMOs have had enough time to make changes on the water but, with the exception of the management of deep-sea fisheries in the waters around Antarctica, have not done so sufficiently. The DSCC report highlights a series of failures to implement key provisions of the UN resolutions including completion of proper impact assessments before fishing, and establishing regulations to ensure the long-term sustainability of deep sea species.

The first of the UN resolutions (2006) was adopted by the UN GA after a lengthy debate in which many States called for a temporary prohibition on the practice of deep sea bottom trawl fishing on the high seas – considered one of the most highly destructive in current use. Instead, the UN negotiators reached a compromise which required that a series of protection measures had to be implemented by December 2008 or fishing could not occur. These measures were further strengthened in a follow-up resolution adopted by the UNGA in 2009.

Policy Advisor to the DSCC Matthew Gianni and lead author of the DSCC report, said: "The relatively small number of nations involved in deep-sea bottom fishing on the high seas made a clear commitment to the UN GA that they would prohibit their vessels from deep-sea fishing in international waters unless or until protection measures were in place. A number of reviews have shown that while some high seas areas have been closed to bottom fishing, countries continue to allow their vessels to engage in this type of fishing in contravention of the commitments they've made."

Representatives of the DSCC together with Professor Weaver, and other marine scientists will be giving evidence to the UN at a special two day Review of the implementation of Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 9New York on 15-16).

Mathew Gianni: "All nations have a right to expect that the deep-sea fisheries on the High Seas – the global oceans commons – are sustainable and the ecosystems protected. Those that do not comply should be told to shape up or stop fishing."

Deep sea bottom trawling is recognised as the most serious direct threat to deep-sea ecosystems. Once destroyed, slow-growing deep-sea species are either lost forever or unlikely to recover for decades or centuries.
The 22 marine scientists attending the Hermione workshop in Lisbon, concluded that:
  • The UNGA resolutions have not been fully implemented
  • Deep-sea fisheries are not being managed for long-term sustainability, and
  • Vulnerable marine ecosystems are not being given sufficient protection from significant adverse impacts.
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) review concluded that:

  • The catch of most deep-sea fish species on the high seas is unregulated
  • Prior impact assessments – a cornerstone of the UN GA resolutions – have not been conducted for any high seas bottom fisheries in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans
  • Bottom trawl fishing has been banned in the international waters around Antarctica, but accounts for over 95% of the bottom fish catch on the high seas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans
  • While a number of areas of the high seas have been closed to bottom fishing to protect deep-sea ecosystems since 2006, the closures are generally areas of little or no interest to the fishing industry and many more areas of the high seas continue to be vulnerable to bottom fishing.
  • Deep-sea bottom fishing on the high seas in contravention of the UN resolutions is effectively illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing.

For further information please contact Mirella Von Lindenfels
T: + 44 (0) 7717 844352


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NOTES
• The findings of both reports will be presented to the United Nations on September 15th during its first ever, open review process this year.
• "Review of implementation of UNGA Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72: Report of a scientific workshop held in Lisbon, May 2010" published by the National Oceanography Centre, UK 15 September 2011, has been prepared by Professor Philip Weaver et al. Co-sponsors of the workshop included Oxford University, University of the Azores, the University de Itaijai (Brazil), the EU's Hermione Project, INDEEP, and the Census of Marine Life.
• "Unfinished business: a review of the implementation of the provisions of United Nations General Assembly resolutions 61/105 and 64/72, related to the management of bottom fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction" report, published 15 September 2011, has been prepared by Matthew Gianni, Political and Policy Advisor to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) with contributions from colleagues of the member organizations of the DSCC.
• Matthew Gianni, Professor Philip Weaver, Dr. Alex Rogers, Dr Elliott Norse are available for interviews.
o Dr Alex Rogers, University of Oxford, co-authored the 2010 DSCC "Review of Implementation of UNGA Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 in the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries on the High Seas" in May 2010 and is considered one of the world's leading marine scientists.
o Dr Elliott Norse from the Marine Conservation Institute, recently published "Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries" finding that most deep sea fish species have low resilience and high vulnerability and as a result their fisheries are unsustainable and noting that without subsidies, high seas fishing would operate at a loss.
• The DSCC was founded in 2004, to address the issue of bottom trawling on the high seas in the absence of an effective governance regime. The coalition is made up of over 70 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), fishers organisations and law and policy institutes, committed to protecting the deep sea. A coordination team works together with a Steering Group that currently consists of Ecology Action Centre, Greenpeace International, Marine Conservation Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Environment Group and Seas at Risk. www.savethehighseas.org
• The UN FAO estimated that in 2006, the latest year for which global figures are available, approximately 285 vessels were engaged in high seas bottom fishing, 80% of which were flagged to the following 10 countries: Australia, Belize, Estonia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, South Korea and Spain. http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i1116e/i1116e00.htm