EU slammed for retaining deepsea quotas

01 Dec 2010
In 2011, the UN General Assembly will review the actions taken by EU and other high seas fishing nations to implement the 2009 resolution.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly will review the actions taken by EU and other high seas fishing nations to implement the 2009 resolution.

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has voiced its disappointment with the EU’s Council of Fisheries Ministers decision to set TACs and quotas for deepsea fisheries in the northeast Atlantic in contravention of United Nations General Assembly resolutions.

The coalition, which is an alliance of more than 60 organisations calling for full implementation of a UN resolution to manage bottom fishing in deep oceans, said the most recent UN General Assembly resolution, adopted in 2009, commits the EU to implement a set of management measures for deepsea fisheries “to ensure the long-term sustainability of deepsea fish stocks and non-target species, and the rebuilding of depleted stocks” and “not to authorise bottom fishing activities until such measures have been adopted and implemented”.

It added the resolution also commits the EU “to ensure that vessels do not engage in bottom fishing until” impact assessments of bottom fisheries have been carried out to determine whether deepsea ecosystems will be harmed by bottom fishing.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the main scientific advisory body for northeast Atlantic fisheries, has advised that there is insufficient scientific information to manage deepsea fisheries to ensure the long-term sustainability of deepsea fish stocks.

ICES also considers the catch of all deepsea species in the region to be “outside safe biological limits” and has raised concerns over high levels of bycatch and discards (up to 50%) and misreporting and non-reporting of deepsea catches.

‘Deepsea’ is defined by ICES as waters below 400 metres.

No impact assessments have yet been conducted for the EU’s deepsea bottom fisheries in the northeast Atlantic.

In spite of the commitment made by the EU to the United Nations General Assembly, the council decided to maintain the 2011 and 2012 quotas for most deepsea stocks at the same levels as in 2010.

The council did agree to reduce the quotas for several stocks of roundnose grenadier and black scabbardfish by 10–25% over the next two years and to phase out a bycatch allowance for deepsea sharks.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said the council decision essentially allows EU fleets to continue to fish similar amounts of deepsea species as in 2010, with the exception of deepsea sharks. Moreover, the council only agreed to set quotas for 24 deepsea species, with no limits in place for the catch of some 20-40 additional species known or likely to be caught in the northeast Atlantic deepsea fisheries.

“If the EU’s fisheries ministers had been serious about delivering on their UN commitments, they would have agreed to phase out deepsea fisheries unless or until these fisheries are managed sustainably, environmental impact assessments have been conducted, and deepsea ecosystems are protected,” said Matthew Gianni, political and policy advisor of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “Instead, it’s largely business as usual for the EU’s deepsea fleets.

“The decision by the European Council calls into question the credibility of the commitments made by France, Spain and other EU countries regarding the upcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the commitment to science based fisheries management, applying the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fisheries management, as well as compliance with the UN General Assembly resolutions and international law.”

In 2011, the UN General Assembly will review the actions taken by EU and other high seas fishing nations to implement the 2009 resolution.

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