31, Jul, 2016

Implementation of UN landmark resolutions to protect the deep sea is inadequate

Category: Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

Implementation of United Nations landmark resolutions to protect the deep sea is inadequate.

A lot has been achieved in the last 10 years but we cannot give up until the job is done.

A  new  report  out  today  (29  July  2016)  reviewing  ten  years  of  international  commitment  to  conserve biodiversity in the deep sea, finds significant improvements in our ability to prevent damage from destructive fishing  practices  over  the  last  decade,  but concludes  that  implementation  of the  United  Nations  General Assembly  (UNGA)  landmark  Resolutions  falls  short  and  leaves  vast  parts  of  the  ocean  unprotected  from destruction by deep-sea bottom trawling.  

The analysis by the Deep Sea Conservation  Coalition (DSCC) was shared with scientists at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Canada this week, and has been timed to coincide with the UNGA’s formal Review of progress towards the implementation of UN Resolutions 59/25 (2004), 61/105 (2006), 64/72 (2009) and 66/68 (2011) taking place in New York on August 1-2. These Resolutions commit high seas fishing nations to preventing damage to deep-sea ecosystems via a series of well-defined actions. They represent a decade’s worth of political commitment to prevent fisheries damage to deep-sea ecosystems.  

The report, which offers a region-by-region  analysis of the actions required and taken by States, highlights a series  of important  developments,  which  have  undoubtedly  resulted  from  the  UNGA  Resolutions.    These include three new agreements  establishing  regional  fisheries  management  organizations  (RFMOs)  entering into force to manage high seas bottom fisheries in the North Pacific, South Pacific and Southern Indian Ocean, as well measures taken by several RFMOs to restrict certain destructive bottom fishing gear and/or protect vulnerable marine ecosystems.

However, the analysis also shows that there are significant areas where the requirements of the Resolutions remain either partially or entirely unfulfilled, leaving vast areas of the ocean unprotected. Many of the impact assessments that have been carried out for bottom fisheries in the high seas are not consistent with UN FAO established criteria, while cumulative impact assessments have not been conducted in any region. Many areas where  vulnerable  marine  ecosystems  are  known  or  likely  to  occur  remain  open  to  bottom  fishing,  and trawling continues to be the most pervasive form of bottom fishing on the high seas. This despite concerns repeatedly highlighted by science regarding the destructive impact of deep-sea bottom trawling on species, ecosystems, biodiversity and - more recently - the capacity of deep-sea species and sediment ecosystems to capture and sequester carbon.  

Matthew Gianni, lead author of the report said: “We’re saying progress has been made in protecting deep-sea ecosystems from the harmful impacts of fishing but much more needs to be done. It has been ten years since the first of the landmark  UN resolutions  was adopted  and eight  years  since  the UN called  on States  and RFMOs to adopt and implement  the actions called for in the resolutions  or else prohibit deep-sea bottom fisheries on the high seas. Nonetheless we are also saying “don’t give up” because the job must be done.  For the  most  part,  failure  to  fully  implement  the  resolutions  is  due  to  a  lack  of  political  will  to  apply  the precautionary  approach  to  the  management  of  deep-sea  fisheries  in  the  face  of  scientific  uncertainty  as required under international law.  We all recognize that the deep-sea is poorly studied but at the same time a global reservoir of biodiversity and it is important that we protect the oceans from unnecessary destruction.”  

The  report  makes  a  number  of  recommendations  to  States  and  RFMOs,  including  a  sharper  focus  on  impact

Susanna Fuller, of the Ecology Action Centre and co-author of the report, said “At the upcoming review of actions taken to protect deep sea ecosystems and fisheries from the impacts of fishing, we will be making a strong case for commitment of States to fully implement these resolutions – and set a clear timeline for this work and its completion.”

Duncan Currie, Legal Advisor to the DSCC and co-author of the report, added, “All States, whether they fish on the high seas or not have a role to play in ensuring that UNGA Resolutions are implemented in full because these  resolutions  represent  the  interests  of the  international  community  as a whole.    We  are  calling  on delegates  to  show  they  are  still  care  by  upholding  the  Resolutions  and  committing  to  another  Review. Regardless of what happens in New York this week, we need an agreement that damage to the vulnerable marine ecosystems in the deep must be stopped.”  



The Executive Summary of the report entitled ‘How much longer will it take? A ten year review of the implementation  of United  Nations  General  Assembly  (UNGA)  resolutions  61/105,  64/72  and 66/68  on the management of bottom fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction by can be found on the DSCC Website here along with a full copy of the report (

The report was launched during the International Marine Conservation Congress (30 July- 3 August 2016 – St John's, Newfoundland  and Labrador (Canada) at a pre- IMCC Focus Group on Biodiversity  in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction by Susanna Fuller, who co-authored the DSCC report, and will be presented by Matthew Gianni at the UN on 1 August

The UNGA will meet in New York on 1-2 August to review the implementation of a set of landmark resolutions adopted by the UNGA calling for action by States to prevent damage to deep-sea ecosystems from destructive fishing practices.  

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