Greenpeace yesterday applauded the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for its drastic but responsible call for a complete overhaul of deep-sea fisheries management in the North Atlantic. ICES is recommending that no new deep-sea fisheries are allowed until they can be shown to be sustainable, and that existing deep-sea fisheries are significantly cut back.
“Unfortunately, the ICES recommendations confirm what we have been saying all along: that deep-sea fisheries are in deep, deep trouble, ” said Karen Sack, Greenpeace Oceans Policy Advisor.
Deep-sea fisheries are considered particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they are slow growing and slow to reproduce. ICES is the oldest intergovernmental organisation coordinating and promoting marine research in the North Atlantic, Baltic and North Sea. It provides recommendations to 19 countries and is a meeting point for over 1600 marine scientists.
The European Community is responsible for more than half of all high seas bottom trawl catches worldwide, most of which occurs in the North Atlantic. Bottom trawling is widely recognised as the most destructive fishing method currently in use.
According to Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU Marine Policy Advisor, “it is time for the European Union to take responsibility for its actions. To start, it should support the establishment of a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling so that it can put the ICES recommendations to overhaul deep-sea fisheries management into practice.”
Negotiations are currently underway at the United Nations on how to protect sensitive deep-sea habitats from the impacts of high seas bottom trawling. But many states, including some from the European Union, are claiming that negotiators reached a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ last year to wait two years before taking action on this issue.
According to Sack, “it’s unbelievable to think that these decision-makers may ignore urgent scientific advice because of a behind-closed-doors agreement that they made among themselves. There are too many examples of fisheries mismanagement already. The ICES findings show that scientific evidence clearly supports the need for immediate international action now to protect deep-sea life. The question is whether the policy makers will act or wait another year while they allow the destruction to continue.”