Oceana welcomes EU Commission proposal to phase out deep-sea bottom trawling in the Northeast Atlantic

Proposal prevents, for the first time, fishing opportunities from being set higher than scientific recommendations.

Press Release Date: July 19, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Deep-sea species and habitats are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

Today, the European Commission published a strong draft regulation establishing access requirements and conditions applicable to deep sea fisheries in the Atlantic. Oceana is pleased with this significant step towards the sustainable use of deep marine resources and the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Among the newly proposed management measures, the international marine conservation organization is particularly happy with the progressive expiration of fishing authorisations for vessels using destructive and low selective fishing practices (trawls and bottom gillnets),  the inclusion of measures that require impact assessments for bottom fishing gear in new areas, and the definition of strict guidelines for fixing fishing opportunities.

The phasing out of deep-sea bottom trawling and bottom gillnets sets a major precedent in the protection and sustainable use of the deep-sea, which is in line with United Nations guidelines and resolutions,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Most of the species exploited in the deep sea are associated with sea mounts and deep-sea coral reefs, which are vulnerable ecosystems that are extremely sensitive to the harmful impact of these types of fishing practices.”

Because the species targeted by deep-sea fisheries exhibit biological characteristics that make them very vulnerable to overfishing (slow growth, late sexual maturity, and low fertility rates), the Commission proposal to block the setting of fishing opportunities higher than those recommended by scientists is critically important. Fishing opportunities, per the proposal, will be consistent with maximum sustainable yield and when it is not possible to identify this rate, they will be fixed according to the precautionary approach using the best scientific information available. In some cases, restrictions of fishing activity when there is no sound knowledge of the stocks status will be applied.

“This is a good starting point to establish a responsible management framework,” added Javier Lopez, Marine Scientist of Oceana Europe. “We urge the Council and Parliament not to water down this proposal, and instead approve a regulation that ensures the sustainable exploitation of deep sea species while minimising the impact on the marine environment.”

The Commission proposal applies to deep-sea fisheries (those occurring at depths between 400m and 1600 m)  targeting a specific list of species including black scabbardfish, grenadiers, orange roughies, red seabreams, forkbeards and dozens of other species including deep-sea sharks. The proposal covers the European waters and high seas of the North-East Atlantic and outermost regions of Spain and Portugal.

Learn More: Link to the Commission proposal

Learn More: Oceana video on deep sea fisheries