Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems Protection
As coastal and open-water fisheries become ever more depleted and overexploited, industrial fishing fleets have turned to deep-sea species. Many use highly destructive bottom trawling techniques.
To capture a handful of “target” species, deep-sea bottom trawl fishing vessels drag huge nets equipped with steel plates and heavy rollers across the seabed, pulverizing sea life in their path.
These vessels fish on seamounts, in deep-sea canyons, and on the rough seafloor – areas that were once avoided for fear of damaging nets. They plow through biologically rich and diverse ecosystems, crushing corals, sponges, marine life and habitats as they go.
Many species of unwanted fish are caught as “bycatch” and thrown back dead into the ocean. In a matter of a few weeks, bottom trawl fishing can destroy what took nature many thousands of years to create.
CHALLENGING DEEP-SEA FISHING
Since 2004, the DSCC has been acting on international concerns over the harmful impacts of deep-sea bottom fishing. Our advocacy contributed to the adoption of a series of resolutions by the UN General Assembly calling for protection of deep-sea ecosystems from the harmful impacts of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas. The resolutions have prompted significant improvements to international law, policy and regulation.
Most recently, in 2022, UNGA Sustainable Fisheries resolution 77/181 highlighted the importance of protecting deep-sea biodiversity and called for the assessment of the potential impacts on all species that constitute a VME “including their associated and dependent species”. But seamount ecosystems and other VMEs remain at risk; more still needs to be done.
WHAT ARE OUR PRIORITIES?
The DSCC Seamounts Campaign is currently focused on these priorities:
- The protection of all seamounts from impact fishing in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
- Recognition by States and RFMOs of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals as the “groups of species, communities or habitats that may be vulnerable to impacts from fishing activities” (FAO International Guidelines).
- Consistent application by States and RFMOs of the precautionary ecosystem approach to protect seamounts and vulnerable marine ecosystems.
- The specific consideration of climate impact in RFMO Conservation Measures, fisheries plans, and research and monitoring programs.