Brussels, 22nd November 2006. After two days of Fisheries Council negotiations EU ministers have agreed a typical EU fudge and gambled that deep-sea stocks will survive another 4-5 years of over-fishing. Seas At Risk condemns ministers for their lack of political courage, and is shocked at their willingness to gamble with the future of whole ecosystems.

Brussels, 22nd November 2006. After two days of Fisheries Council negotiations EU ministers have agreed a typical EU fudge and gambled that deep-sea stocks will survive another 4-5 years of over-fishing. Seas At Risk condemns ministers for their lack of political courage, and is shocked at their willingness to gamble with the future of whole ecosystems.

Despite scientific advice from ICES that orange roughy (pictured), blue ling and deep water shark fisheries should be closed immediately, Ministers agreed only relatively modest cuts in 2007 and 2008, aiming at a final phase-out only by 2010/11.

Given the current status of these stocks, it is far from certain that they will survive the levels of fishing agreed by ministers in the run-up to the phase-out. The scientists are clear that these fisheries should be closed. It is shocking that the Fisheries Council’s only response is to fall into their usual habit of disregarding scientific advice and appeasing those countries that profit most from over-fishing; deep-sea fish species are too vulnerable and recovery too slow to sustain such a ministerial habit. A number of countries led by the UK supported stronger action but their initiative was defeated by France, Spain, Portugal and Poland.

An ICES recommendation to reduce fishing for roundnose grenadier to the lowest possible level and to dramatically scale-down fishing activity on other deep-sea stocks was dealt with in a similar manner. In line with a decision at last week’s Annual Meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, the Council agreed a token 5% cut in overall fishing effort, a cut that will in any case be difficult to verify since reliable fishing effort data is rarely provided by the countries involved.

In a related development, negotiations will end this week on a proposed United Nation’s General Assembly Resolution on a moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas. Deep-sea bottom trawling is the most destructive of all current fishing practices, not only decimating deep-sea fish stocks but also destroying vulnerable deep-sea habitats such as cold-water corals and seamounts. Many nations, including a good number from the EU, are supporting the proposal, but a joint EU position in favour of a moratorium appears to be being blocked by Spain.

Seas At Risk press release on outcome of Fisheries Council (22/11/06).Seas At Risk press release on outcome of Fisheries Council (22/11/06).

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