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Deep sea rules being ignored say reports

By Colin Ricketts - 15 Sep 2011 16:35:0 GMT
Deep sea rules being ignored say reports

Despite international efforts to protect deep-sea environments and the fish that live there, many countries continue to flout United Nations (UN) measures that could help save these precious habitats says the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) in two reports this week.

The reports are released just as the UN debates deep sea fisheries and the DSCC says countries including Russia, South Korea, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, France and Japan are still allowing bottom trawling fishing which rips up the sea floor causing terrible damage.

Research from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton has looked at the implementation of two UN Resolutions designed to protect the deep seas. Five years after the first resolution was passed, says the centre, implementation is still poor.

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

The DSCC, in a second report, says the only area of the world's deep oceans that has been properly protected is around Antarctica.

The 2006 resolution allowed fishing by trawling the sea bed to continue, but only if certain conditions were met, and these conditions have been ignored says the DSCC.

Matthew Gianni is the DSCC policy advisor. He 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."

The DSCC and Professor Weaver are due to give evidence at the UN this Thursday and Friday (September 15-16) and will call for action to enforce the resolutions.

Gianni added: "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."

According to the DSCC, deep sea fishing remains largely unregulated, with promised damage assessments in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans not carried out and 95 percent of deep sea fish catch from these oceans brought ashore after bottom trawling. Furthermore, DSCC says that where bottom trawling bans have been put in place they have been in areas of ocean that the fishermen don't harvest.

Top Image Credit: Trawler © daliscot