New York, 8th December 2006. The United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) concluded its annual debate on oceans and sustainable fisheries today with the formal adoption of two resolutions, one of which includes controversial measures for high-seas bottom trawling.

New York, 8th December 2006. The United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) concluded its annual debate on oceans and sustainable fisheries today with the formal adoption of two resolutions, one of which includes controversial measures for high-seas bottom trawling.

A number of countries as well as conservation organisations expressed disappointment that the UN General Assembly had failed to adopt a moratorium on the highly destructive practice of high-seas bottom trawling (in particular in the unregulated areas of the high seas). The negotiations were widely criticised for their lack of transparency, and for the ability of a few countries to undermine the stronger measures favoured by the majority.

The European Union, including Spain (the country with the largest high-seas bottom trawl fleet in the world), expressed disappointment that a stronger resolution was not adopted and called on all States and regional fisheries management organisations "to assume that fishing that has adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems must be tightly regulated to prevent such impacts, or prohibited when prevention is not possible."

The resolution calls on regional fisheries management organisations to close areas of the high-seas to bottom fishing where cold-water corals and other vulnerable deep-sea species are known or likely to occur. The resolution also calls on fishing nations to allow their fleets to engage in fishing on the high-seas only in areas where they are certain that no damage will be done to vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. But it is in the unregulated areas of the high-seas where no fisheries management organisations exist that the resolution falls short, leaving it to the discretion of individual flag-States to regulate their vessels and implement the resolution.

Despite its many failings a number of fishing nations and observers are viewing the resolution as an important first step. If fully implemented, the measures agreed by States could over a period of one to two years bring an end to the wholesale destruction of fragile deep-sea ecosystems by bottom trawl fisheries. This is however a very big if, and the history of past fisheries regulations does not engender confidence.

The final text of the 2006 UN General Assembly Sustainable Fisheries Resolution; for bottom trawling OP83-OP91 are most relevant (23/12/06).

Seas At Risk is member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), a group of more than 60 environmental and conservation organisations from around the world that are campaigning for a UN General Assembly moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling.

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