EU catch limits proposal does not go far enough to protect deep sea especies

Commission ignored scientific advice to close several fisheries.

Press Release Date: October 9, 2012

Location: Madrid


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Today the European Commission presented its proposal on deep sea fishing opportunities for 2013 and 2014. Oceana considers the proposal to be insufficient to guarantee the responsible exploitation of these species and urges that greater efforts be made to improve their management. While for most stocks the Commission proposed total allowable catches (TACs) that followed scientific advice and considered the vulnerability of these species, in several important cases, they did not.

The Commission went against recommendations by scientists to close fisheries for some stocks of roundnose grenadier, blue ling and red seabream. The Commission remained surprisingly ambiguous about vulnerable deep sea sharks, for which the TAC in 2011 and 2012 was set at zero. New scientific advice from ICES was released last week for several of these species – kitefin shark, leafscale gulper shark, and Portuguese dogfish – and indicates that they are depleted, and should not be fished.On the other hand, catch limits for species like black scabbardfish, orange roughy and greater forkbeard are sensible, as they are in line with scientific advice.

“Due to their biological characteristics, like low reproduction, slow growth rate and late maturity, deep sea species are highly vulnerable to overexploitation,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Their management must, now more than ever, follow the precautionary approach.”

Many improvements are still needed in the management of the deep-sea species. Gaps in knowledge of stock status and exploitation rates mean that dozens of species are exploited without catch limits, that fishing gear which causes severe damage to vulnerable habitats is used, and that by-catch from some fisheries are significant and affect very sensitive species.

“The management framework for deep sea species must be improved according to FAO guidelines,” added Javier Lopez, marine scientist at Oceana Europe. “The upcoming reform of the deep sea access regulation proposed by the Commission provides a critical opportunity to move towards more responsible management of these vulnerable resources and sensitive ecosystems. Setting precautionary TACs in the November Fisheries Council should be a priority for Member States.”

Video: Deep sea species: Exploiting the most vulnerable species

More information on deep-sea fisheries reform