Brussels, 29th January 2007. The Commission today published a highly critical review of deep-water fisheries management, but failed to propose an appropriate regulatory response.

Brussels, 29th January 2007. The Commission today published a highly critical review of deep-water fisheries management, but failed to propose an appropriate regulatory response.

The review concludes that reductions in current levels of exploitation are inevitable, either by choice to conserve stocks or by force as stocks are fished out. However, the review only calls for action to improve monitoring, control, and data collection, whereas restricting licenses to those deep-water fisheries that are shown to be sustainable seems to be the only appropriate and precautionary short-term measure for new data-poor fisheries.

The long-awaited review highlights many serious shortcomings in current management measures, and in their implementation. The main problem is that since the introduction of measures in 2002, total allowable catches (TACs) and fishing capacity ceilings have been set too high to limit catches or constrain fishing effort. This is partly due to lack of basic knowledge of the biology of deep-water species and the fisheries concerned, and partly due to the unwillingness of Member States to curb fisheries which in many cases are seen as an alternative to declining continental-shelf fisheries.

The review indicates that TACs are not an adequate management tool for deep-water fisheries, which are mainly mixed fisheries, due to the lack of information on catch composition, discards and geographical distribution of the stocks.

Poor implementation of weak measures further reduced the chances of protecting deep-water stocks. Despite their obligation to do so, none of the Member States have routinely reported information on catches of deep-water species and the fishing effort deployed. Assessment of the impact of the effort reductions in 2005 and 2006 is therefore difficult, and better targeted effort reductions are currently impossible. The scientific sampling programme designed to collect much-needed catch data, as well as the inspection and surveillance procedure for landings at designated ports, were also poorly implemented by Member States. This may be partly due to weaknesses in the formulation of the regulation concerned. Monitoring and control of vessels with deep-water licenses was not effectively implemented.

The review calls for better information on distinct fisheries, more rigorous monitoring and control, and a greater emphasis on collecting data to assess the ecosystem impact of deep-water fisheries. While these are all prerequisites for a targeted and effective management of deep-water fisheries, it is clear that this will take time. In the short-term strong measures are needed to avoid depletion of stocks. Deep-water species are highly vulnerable to over-fishing and will not rebuild within a few years or even decades. The review itself states that “full compliance with the precautionary approach would have required the setting of much lower TACs and effort limits, or even the closure of the fisheries”. It also states that “many deep-sea stocks have such low productivity that sustainable levels of exploitation are probably too low to support an economically viable fishery”. The only effective short-term measure is therefore a suspension of deep-water fisheries, licensing only those deep-water fisheries that are shown to be sustainable.

European Commission communication "Review of the management of deep-sea fish stocks" COM (2007) 30 final (29/1/07).
Commission press notice (29/1/07).

Share This

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required