In December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA), through resolution 61/105, called on States and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to take measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from the adverse impacts of bottom fisheries on the high seas and to ensure the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks. The measures agreed in the resolution included conducting impact assessments to determine whether significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) would occur and closing areas of the high seas to bottom fishing where VMEs are known or likely to occur unless regulations were in place to prevent significant adverse impacts.
UN GA resolution 61/105 also called on the UN Secretary-General to undertake a review in 2009 and report on the measures implemented by States and RFMOs. The resolution requested States and RFMOs to submit information to DOALOS to assist the preparation of its report, which will be issued later this summer, in preparation for the fall Sustainable Fisheries negotiations.
Over the past two years, DSCC advisors and its member organizations have traveled the globe attending and participating in a variety of regional and national efforts to implement the provisions of UN GA 61/105. On the basis of this experience and publicly available information, DSCC advisor, Matthew Gianni, in conjunction with DSCC colleagues, has prepared the submission to DOALOS on behalf of the DSCC and offers a detailed assessment and conclusions on the implementation of 61/105.
While a number of States and RFMOs have adopted framework agreements to implement the UN GA resolution, the DSCC notes that the UN GA set a deadline of December 31 2008 for the implementation of the measures outlined in the 2006 resolution after which States committed to prohibit (not authorizing to proceed) high seas bottom fishing unless or until regulations were in place. In his report, Gianni points out that “It is important to recognize that the 2006 UN GA resolution represented a compromise, primarily between fishing nations whose vessels engage in high seas bottom fisheries and non-high seas bottom fishing nations. Unfortunately, the review in 2009 will not be able to determine whether the measures called for in 61/105 have been sufficient to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems on the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fisheries given that the measures in paragraph 83 have not been fully implemented.”
Further, as of May 2009, some, but not all, high seas bottom fishing nations have produced impact assessments. However, even the most comprehensive assessments are only partial and inconclusive at best. Some areas of the high seas have been closed to bottom fishing but many high seas areas where VMEs are likely to occur remain open to bottom fishing with few or no constraints. Moreover, there has been a general reluctance on the part of many States and RFMOs to close high seas areas to protect VMEs where bottom fishing currently takes place. A ‘move-on’ rule is often the only conservation regulation in place to protect VMEs in both existing and new or unfished areas. Finally, the DSCC submission raises questions concerning the extent to which deep-sea fisheries on the high seas targeting or taking (as bycatch) low productivity species can be both sustainable and economically viable.
The DSCC’s report concludes that “The challenge facing the General Assembly in 2009 will be to conduct an honest, open and robust review and call for additional measures to address the shortcomings in the management of high seas bottom fisheries to date – in light of the fact that a number high seas nations and RFMOs continue to authorize high seas bottom fisheries in spite of the lack of full implementation of the 2006 resolution.”
Please click here for a full version of the DSCC’s submission.
For more information: The DSCC will be holding a side event at the UNICP in New York, June 17, 1:15-3:00, and will distribute copies of its assessment at that time.