Brussels, 27th October 2007. The European Commission proposal for a Regulation to end destructive fishing practices in certain unregulated areas of the high seas and the related Communication are a welcome first step towards the protection of deep sea biodiversity and the strengthening of deep sea fisheries management.

Brussels, 27th October 2007. The European Commission proposal for a Regulation to end destructive fishing practices in certain unregulated areas of the high seas and the related Communication are a welcome first step towards the protection of deep sea biodiversity and the strengthening of deep sea fisheries management.

Bottom trawling, in which vast, weighted nets are dragged across the seabed, is a particularly destructive fishing practice and scientists have identified bottom trawl fishing on the high seas as the most immediate and widespread threat to the unique and vulnerable biodiversity of the deep sea in international waters. Deep sea fish species are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing, due to the longevity of targeted species and their slow growth and reproductive rates.

The proposed Regulation would apply only to EU vessels using bottom gear in areas that are not subject to regulation by a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO). Important elements of the Commission proposal include: the performance of an impact assessment of fishing activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems prior to giving a fishing permit; the presence of observers on board vessels to control compliance with fishing plans; and a precautionary prohibition on the use of bottom gear at depths below 1000m. Seas At Risk supports these measures and calls on the Fisheries Council to adopt the Regulation as soon as possible. Seas At Risk would like to see the initiative extended to deep water fisheries in European waters, where such regulation is also urgently needed.

The Communication also includes proposals to introduce strict monitoring requirements and environmental impact assessments into RFMO regulations. This would be a good first step towards an ecosystem approach and it is up to the European Union to show leadership on the issue. A first opportunity to do so will arise at next month’s meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (London, 12-16/11/07).

Communication on "Destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of vulnerable deep sea ecosystems" (October 2007).
Proposal for a Council Regulation on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears (October 2007).

In a related development, the Commission today also published a Communication and a proposal for a Regulation on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. This is a global problem with serious consequences for fish stocks, the general health of the marine environment, and for coastal communities in developing countries. The Communication includes useful initiatives on port-State control, an EU black list of vessels, stricter rules on certification and trade in fish, and measures to combat the use of flags of convenience. Council adoption of the proposals would create a sound basis for tackling pirate fishing.

Communication on IUU fishing (17/10/07).
Proposal for a Regulation on IUU fishing (27/10/07).

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