London, 16th November 2007. The annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission ended today without an agreement to implement the UN General Assembly resolution on bottom fishing.

London, 16th November 2007. The annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission ended today without an agreement to implement the UN General Assembly resolution on bottom fishing.

This is the second meeting of the Commission this year at which NEAFC’s contracting parties have failed to act. Seas At Risk, together with other members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition have called on NEAFC countries to take the necessary decisions this year in order to ensure that high seas bottom fisheries in the NEAFC area are regulated consistent with the UN resolution.

Critical decisions have been put off until an Extraordinary Meeting in 2008. NEAFC countries, including Iceland, Russia, Norway and the European Union, were amongst the most active participants in the UN General Assembly negotiations in 2006 and have had almost a full year to draft proposals and adopt measures to implement the UN agreement. Unfortunately, they can’t even agree on a common interpretation of what the UN General Assembly has asked them to do. At this rate NEAFC runs a serious risk of missing the UN resolution's 2008 deadline for full implementation of effective measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems.

The Commission did agree to maintain, until the end of 2008, the closure of five areas which were up for review this year; NEAFC also agreed to extend the boundaries of several closed areas on the Hatton and Rockall Banks to provide better protection for cold-water corals. However, according to a paper presented by WWF, these areas only cover a small portion of the high seas areas of the North East Atlantic where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known or likely to occur. In addition, NEAFC lifted a ban on the high seas fishery for orange roughy involving bottom trawling on seamounts for a large part of the Regulatory Area, in spite of advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that no directed fishery for orange roughy should take place.

NEAFC has singularly failed to address the urgency of the General Assembly's resolution. The General Assembly has scheduled a review in 2009 of actions taken by NEAFC and other regional fisheries management organisations. It remains to be seen whether NEAFC countries will fulfil their commitments to the international community to effectively regulate bottom fisheries and protect cold-water corals, seamounts, and other vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems on the high seas.

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