Seas At Risk is disappointed to see that today’s European Commission’s Communication on fishing opportunities in EU waters in 2011 does not contain any reference to United Nations’ requirements for the management of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.

Seas At Risk is disappointed to see that today’s European Commission’s Communication on fishing opportunities in EU waters in 2011 does not contain any reference to United Nations’ requirements for the management of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.

Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki laudably wants to bring EU fishing limits back to sustainable levels in 2011 and see quota levels set in accordance with all the European Union's commitments to sustainability.

The United Nations General Assembly resolution 64/72, adopted in December 2009, commits the EU and other high seas fishing nations to insure for the sustainable exploitation of deep-sea species on the high seas and to conduct prior environmental impact assessments of both deep-sea fisheries and to close areas where vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems such as cold-water coral reefs are known or likely to occur- or else not to authorize such fisheries’ existence.

These requirements are of integral importance when setting TACs, quotas and other measures for deep-sea fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic. Indeed, anything less than having those stipulations in place would be a failure to protect those fisheries and a failure of the Commission to follow through on the EU’s international commitments.

The Communication only states that decisions on fishing effort for deep-sea species will be based on the management regime adopted by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) – a regime that has consistently failed to prevent the depletion of deep-sea fish stocks.

While NEAFC has closed a number of high seas areas to bottom fishing, landings of deep-sea species have increased since NEAFC introduced effort limits for these fisheries. Some 40-50 species are taken in these fisheries including endangered species of deep-sea sharks.

ICES has advised that all fisheries for deep-sea species in the Northeast Atlantic are outside safe biological limits and that discarding and misreporting of catches are major problems. In 2005 ICES called for a complete overhaul of the management of deep-sea fisheries.

The Commission, in a review of deep-sea fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic in 2007, concluded that “many deep-sea stocks have such low productivity that sustainable levels of exploitation are probably too low to support an economically viable fishery”.

 
 

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