Responding to UN Secretary General Review of UN resolution 61/105 published today, Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said “This report shows that fishing States and international organisations must urgently do much more to protect deep-sea ecosystems, or else stop fishing. We will be urging the United Nations to close the loopholes and call for sanctions to halt deep-sea fishing which doesn’t comply with the UN resolution all countries agreed to implement in 2006. The destruction of deep-sea biodiversity on the high seas must be brought to an end.”
The report, requested by the UN General Assembly, outlines the measures taken by high seas fishing nations to implement a 2006 UN General Assembly resolution designed to protect deep-ocean biodiversity from the harmful impact of deep-sea bottom trawling and other methods of bottom fishing. The report concludes that despite progress, “implementation of the resolution has been uneven and further efforts are needed in this regard, including through the adoption and implementation of conservation and management measures to address the impacts of bottom fishing activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems.”
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) has been campaigning for over 5 years to put a stop to damage done by high seas bottom trawling to protect deep sea habitats. In 2006, in response to the concerns raised by the DSCC, scientists and a number of governments, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) adopted a resolution committing all countries whose vessels engage in deep-water fisheries on the high seas to establish regulations to effectively protect seamounts, cold-water corals and other vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems from the harmful impacts of deep-sea bottom fishing. UN GA resolution 61/105, adopted in December 2006, called on flag states and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to take action immediately to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from the destructive impact of bottom fisheries on the high seas through conducting impact assessments, closing areas of the high seas to bottom fishing where VMEs are known or likely to occur unless fisheries in these areas can be managed to prevent significant adverse impacts, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks. The Resolution called on States and RFMOs to implement these measures by 31 December 2008 or else prohibit their vessels from engaging in bottom fishing on the high seas.
Unfortunately more than two years later, countries have done far too little to properly implement the UN General Assembly Resolution. The DSCC, in May 2009, submitted a report to the UN Secretary General outlining the shortcomings in the regulation of high seas bottom fisheries. Most high seas bottom fisheries have not been subject to impact assessments; where assessments have been conducted, none have been conclusive as to whether significant adverse impacts would or would not occur. Although some area closures have been adopted by RFMOs, most high seas areas at fishable depths where VMES are known or are likely to occur remain open to bottom fisheries with few or no constraints. The long-term sustainability of few, if any, deep-sea fish stocks has been ensured – in most high seas bottom fisheries, basic information on the catch and biological characteristics of target and non-target deep-sea fish stocks is insufficient to even determine long-term sustainable levels of fishing; in those fisheries where such information exists, most of the fish stocks are recognized to be overexploited or depleted and, in some cases, threatened with extinction (i.e. several species of deep-sea sharks in the Northeast Atlantic).
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The UN Secretary General’s report – “Actions taken by States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements to give effect to paragraphs 83 to 90 of General Assembly resolution 61/105 of 8 December 2006 on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments” – can be found at:
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 61/105:
The DSCC review of the Review of the implementation of the provisions of UN GA resolution 61/105 related to the management of high seas bottom fisheries:
Bottom trawling is laying waste to the precious ecosystems of the deep sea. Sigourney Weaver calls on delegates of the UN to take immediate action to stop this destruction in the High Seas. The Bottom Line, presented by Sigourney Weaver, here: