Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization

27
Sep
2019

For Immediate Release September 27 2019

Bordeaux, France: At the 41st Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), 11 countriesi and the European Union met to debate management measures for fisheries and discuss how best to protect deep-sea ecosystems on the high seas in the northwest Atlantic.

NAFO has closed 21 High Seas areas to bottom-fishing activities over the past 13 years in order to protect deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity. These closures have encompassed the majority of the region’s seamounts—submarine mountains that are home to a great variety of life.

This year, the last remaining trawl fishery on seamounts in the NAFO area—the fishery for the splendid alphonsino on the Corner Rise seamount chain—has finally been closed after several years of contentious debate, but only following the near extirpation of the stock. As well, numerous areas where corals and sponges are known to occur along the continental shelf and slope in the area – the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap – remain open to bottom fishing, which may destroy these fragile, long-lived, habitat forming species. NAFO will review all closures in 2020 and will complete comprehensive assessments of fishing impacts by 2021.

“The good news is that the trawl fishery on the seamounts has been closed but it’s very disheartening to see yet another deep-sea species be essentially fished out”, says Susanna Fuller, Senior Projects Manager at Oceans North and an observer at this year’s NAFO meeting. “It is clear that NAFO’s 2006 commitment to sustainably manage deep sea fisheries has not been upheld.”

Additional measures adopted this week at NAFO, marking slow but continued progress in protecting deep-sea ecosystems and species, include an agreement to avoid scientific bottom trawl surveys in areas closed to commercial fishing to protect sensitive ecosystems; improvements in catch-data reporting protocols; and long-overdue measures to ensure that bycatch of deep-sea corals, sponges and other vulnerable species can be formally recorded. NAFO also improved protocols for recording bycatch of Greenland shark.

Disappointingly, several quota decisions were above science advice, including for redfish, witch flounder and white hake. Despite objections from some countries, NAFO also agreed to open the shrimp fishery on the Flemish Cap which has been closed since 2011, by allowing over 2,500 fishing days and no official catch limits.

“It is astounding that in this day in age, developed fishing nations would open a fishery at the first sign of recovery, essentially as a free-for-all,” says Fuller. “Shrimp have likely recovered as a result of overfishing cod and redfish, so we really are looking at single species and ecosystem mis-management.”

A number of countries, non-governmental organizations, and the fishing industry are also concerned over the ongoing oil and gas drilling permitted by Canada in areas that NAFO has closed to trawling to protect sensitive ecosystems. No scientific data was transmitted to NAFO regarding the 3 oil spills in 2019 that occurred adjacent to the NAFO area. Furthermore, Canada is currently conducting a regional assessment that may result in permits for up to 100 new oil wells— some of which will be in the NAFO regulatory area—but has not yet engaged formally with any of the countries who fish in the NAFO area.

The IPCC report on Oceans and the Cryosphere was released during the same week as the NAFO meetings. It predicts continued impacts on fisheries as the oceans warm and become more acidic.

“We have a global climate crisis and biodiversity crisis, both of which are affecting our oceans,” said Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “While NAFO is at least trying to manage deep-sea fisheries to prevent further damage to deep-sea biodiversity on the high seas, Canada is opening up new areas to oil and gas exploration in these biodiversity hotspots at a time when the countries need to reduce, not increase, production of fossil fuels.”

For more information, please contact:

Sian Owen,
Coordinator, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
deepseacoalition@gmail.com
+31 648 50 25 69

Matt Gianni
Political and Policy Advisor, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
matthewgianni@gmail.com
+ 31 646 16 88 99

i The Contracting Parties (member countries) of NAFO are Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland), France (in respect of St Pierre and Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine and United States plus the European Union.

Read the DSCC’s NAFO-related documents here.

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23
Sep
2019

To:

João Aguiar Machado
European Commission, Director-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Anders Jessen,
European Commission, Law of the Sea and Regional Fisheries Organisations, DG-MARE

September 23, 2019

Re: Closing seamounts to bottom fisheries and unregulated fishing in the NAFO Regulatory Area

Dear Mr. Machado, Mr. Jessen,

As you know, the 41st Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) takes place this week in Bordeaux. One of the priority issues of concern to us is the protection of seamounts from the impacts of trawl fisheries in the NAFO Regulatory Area. The Scientific Council has recommended closure of the last remaining seamount fishery in the NAFO Regulatory Area – a fishery targeting alfonsino by a vessel flagged to an EU Member State. We urge the EU to maintain its ocean governance leadership and support the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) through closing all remaining unprotected seamounts at fishable depths in the NAFO Regulatory Area to bottom fishing.

NAFO first began closing seamounts to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in 2006 in response to UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions committing states and RFMOs to protect seamounts from destructive fishing activities.[1] NAFO identified seamounts as ‘VME elements’ (i.e. areas likely to harbor VMEs) in 2008 and periodically adopted further closures of seamounts to bottom fisheries over the ensuing years, most recently in 2017 to complete the New England seamount chain protection measures. While NAFO has made considerable progress in protecting seamounts at fishable depths there remain seamounts at < 2000m depth that are unprotected (see below).

Moreover, the only remaining trawl fishery on seamounts in the NAFO Regulatory Area is conducted by a vessel flagged to an EU Member State targeting alfonsino on the Corner Rise Seamounts. The Scientific Council of NAFO, in its assessment of the fishery in 2018, stated that the stock status was “unknown”; that the stock was “unregulated”; and that the fishery “can produce significant adverse impacts (SAI) on VME communities, as per information provided by the Scientific Council in 2010 and further addressed by the Scientific Council in 2015”. This year the Scientific Council has advised closure of the fishery. In our view the fishery is not only in contravention of the commitments to protect VMEs that States have undertaken through the adoption of the UNGA resolutions, but it fits the definition of an IUU fishery.

In August 2020, the UNGA will begin a review of progress by States and RFMOs in the implementation of bottom fishing measures adopted in Sustainable Fisheries Resolutions 61/105 (2006), 64/72 (2009), 66/68 (2011) and 71/123 (2016). While NAFO will review all existing bottom fishing measures in 2020 and complete updated impact assessments in 2021, NAFO can make significant progress this year by closing the remaining seamounts at fishable depths to bottom fishing to protect VMEs. Not only would this demonstrate the continued commitment by the EU and other NAFO Contracting Parties to implement the UNGA resolutions in time for the 2020 review, it would also demonstrate NAFO’s commitment and capacity to deliver on key international biodiversity commitments related to conserving biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction in the context of the ongoing UNGA BBNJ negotiations, to the CBD marine Aichi targets, and to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, in particular target 14.2 which commits States to “sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans” in time for the UN Oceans & SDG 14 Conference in June 2020.

We urge the European Union to support the closure of all remaining seamounts at fishable depths in the NAFO Regulatory Area to bottom fishing – the seamounts in the Corner Rise area and the seamounts on the slope of the Grand Banks which are not yet within existing VME closed areas. We also urge the European Union to agree to the closure of the splendid alfonsino fishery in the Corner Rise Seamount area.

[1] UNGA resolution 59/25 (2004), paragraph 66

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22
Sep
2017

The 39th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) closed today, in Montreal. The Ecology Action Centre attended as an observer to the meeting of 12 Contracting Parties who collectively manage fisheries on the high seas, outside the 200-mile limit in the North Atlantic.

Continue reading NAFO Closes Additional Seamount Areas but Fails to Follow Scientific Advice on Key High Seas Fish Stocks

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23
Sep
2016

Varadero, Cuba—The 38th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) concluded today in Varadero, Cuba. This year, expectations were high that NAFO Contracting Parties would take further measures to protect elements of the marine ecosystem and vulnerable sharks and skates, and environmentalists at the Ecology Action Centre, who attended as the only civil society observers, are pleased to see that some of these measures will be moving forward.  

Continue reading High Seas Fisheries Organization Agrees to Important Conservation Measures, Closes a New Area to Bottom Fishing & Adopts Policy to Further Prevent Shark Finning

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25
Sep
2015

The 37th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) concluded today in Halifax, Canada. Member countries agreed to several measures that will lead to improved ecosystem protection, but did not follow scientific advice provided over the past two years to close a number of deep-sea coral and sponge areas to bottom trawling or to regulate the fishery for alphonsino, a deep-sea species fished on the high seas of the northwest Atlantic.

Continue reading NAFO closes seamounts to bottom fishing, fails to regulate Alphonsino fishery

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26
Sep
2014

 

Vigo, Spain (September 26th, 2014) – The 36th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) closed today in Vigo, Spain. The 12 members of NAFO were presented with comprehensive scientific advice regarding the protection of deep sea ecosystems as well as the conservation of fish stocks in the NAFO Convention Area. NAFO agreed to close two new areas to protect deep-sea ecosystems such as coldwater corals, sponge and seapen ecosystems, but did not adopt the full suite of recommendations to protect sites identified by its scientists as high priorities.

Continue reading New deep-sea protection measures agreed for the Northwest Atlantic

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22
Sep
2014

The 36th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) convenes this week (September 22-26) in Vigo, Spain. Of primary concern to conservation organizations is the protection of deep sea species from bottom trawling. While some areas of the deep-sea in the Northwest Atlantic have been closed to fishing over the past several years, scientific advice presented this year indicates that there is poor protection in several areas including deep sea corals, sponges and seamounts as well as other fragile sea floor species. 

Continue reading Pressure Mounts for Adoption of Further Conservation Measures for NAFO

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27
Sep
2013

Halifax, Canada: This week, at the 35th annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) deep sea fishing nations agreed to additional measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems which include seafloor organisms vulnerable to bottom fishing. Extensions were made to existing closed areas for large gorgonian corals and seapens, and one new protected area was agreed as well.  

Continue reading NAFO Makes Progress on Protecting Deep Sea Ecosystems. Bycatch and Unregulated Fisheries Continue to be a Conservation Problem

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