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Global effort needed to stop deep sea 'pirate' fishing

By Kieran Ball - 09 Sep 2011 14:32:0 GMT
Global effort needed to stop deep sea 'pirate' fishing

As marine ecologists, fisheries biologists, economists and international policy experts all call for an end to deep sea fishing, more pressure is also being put on world governments to come together to formulate a unified strategy to combat 'pirate' fishing.

Even while the United Nations decides whether or not to allow the continuation of deep sea fishing, a report published in the journal, Marine Policy, claims that deep sea fishing has a far more damaging effect than any other form of fishing.

In deep seas, where food is more scarce, the life cycle of native fish is slower that that of those species found in coastal waters. Some deep sea fish live for a hundred years or more and are more vulnerable to overfishing as they cannot repopulate quickly enough.

Although only 1% of the world's seafood may come from deep sea fishing, the damage done to the sea floor by trawling has a far larger impact on deep sea ecosystems. And that's only part of the problem. Because most deep sea fishing fleets operate outside designated Exclusive Economic Zones, more than 200 kilometres from landfall, not only are these fleets virtually impossible to monitor, they also operate outside the remit of government regulation.

Yet, despite the fact that these fleets can use unethical fishing practices that would be illegal in coastal waters, many still receive government funding. Currently, deep sea fishing fleets obtain around $162 million in government subsidies.

Now, at a time when the US and the European Union are putting together measures to crack down on fishing fleets that exploit loopholes in regional regulation, one way to reduce the impact of deep sea fishing is to reduce or remove government funding for deep sea fishing, particularly when these fleets are in waters beyond government control anyway.

Surely, if these funds were to be made available to help small scale, sustainable coastal fishing operations instead, it would be money spent on improving sustainability, rather than causing further damage to vulnerable deep sea fish stocks.

Top Image Credit: Fishing boat © EnjoyLife