European Commission takes bold steps to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems
Today, the European Commission has announced that it will protect 87 vulnerable marine ecosystems from deep-sea bottom fishing near the Atlantic coasts of France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
Deep-sea vulnerable marine ecosystems are scientifically recognised as storing a large part of the CO2 produced by human activities. Protecting deep-sea vulnerable ecosystems thus represents a crucial step towards preventing marine ecological breakdown and mitigating climate change.
The protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems was a vital part of the 2016 Deep Sea Fisheries Regulation. In addition to prohibiting bottom-trawling below 800 metres, the Regulation required an end to bottom-fishing in cold water coral reefs, aggregations of deep-sea sponges, sea pens and other deepwater habitats by 2018. These diverse deep-sea ecosystems are highly vulnerable to degradation. The delay in implementing this obligation of the Regulation was partly the result of the lengthy and extensive consultation and evaluation undertaken by the European Commission with scientists, Member States, the fishing industry and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“Despite being four years late as a result of a lengthy consultation process with stakeholders, we applaud the European Commission for finally and firmly adopting the preservation of vulnerable deep sea ecosystems. The protection of these ecosystems is a key step towards reversing biodiversity loss in our ocean, while also contributing to mitigating climate change,” said Andrea Ripol, Marine Policy Officer of Seas At Risk.
Life in the deep sea grows at a much slower pace and is very vulnerable to human pressures. Bottom-trawling can crush deep-sea coral in a matter of seconds, which can live for as long as 4,000 years if unharmed. Some deep-sea fish species live for more than a century, and while they can spawn many eggs, it can take several years for juveniles to reach maturity.
Deep-sea ecosystems are so significant for ecology and climate that some scientists have been calling for years for a general ban on fishing activities in the deep sea. This type of fishing is only profitable because of the high level of subsidies it receives. Scientists call for end to deep-sea fishing – The Washington Post
The relevance of the deep sea for climate comes from the fact that some of the organic carbon captured by vegetated coastal ecosystems is exported to the deep sea, where it stays stored for thousands of years. See here for more info.
Posted on: 15 September 2022