The last wild hunt

trawler020603

At a 9 am press conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting (AAAS) on February 18th, an international team of leading fisheries economists, biologists, and ecologists will call for the abolition of government fuel subsidies that keep deep-sea fishing vessels moving to deeper waters.

“Industrial fisheries are now going thousands of miles, thousands of feet deep and catching things that live hundreds of years in the process – in the least protected place on Earth,” says Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

In international waters beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of coastal countries, many of the fisheries are virtually unregulated. Here fishing fleets operate like roving bandits, using state of the art technologies to plunder the depths.

Deep-water trawlers or draggers account for about 80% of the bottom fishing catch from the high seas. In a few hours, the massive nets that drag the bottom and weigh up to 15 tons, can destroy deep-sea corals and sponge beds that have taken centuries or millennia to grow.

The trawlers target fish such orange roughy and grenadiers for food, and sharks for the cosmetic industry. These fish are generally long-lived, slow growing and late maturing so their populations take decades, even centuries to recover.

And because most deep-sea fishing occurs on the high seas (international waters) far from the watchful eyes of regulatory agencies