Protecting the Deep Sea: Pew Fights Destructive Fishing Practices

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More may be known about the farthest reaches of outer space than we do about the deepest parts of the oceans. Scientists say more than 10 million species may live below the surface―an incredible biodiversity rivaling that of some of the world's largest tropical rain forests.

Advances in technology, however, have made it possible for humans to fish the deep sea's mountain peaks, canyons and seabed, leaving these undiscovered species highly vulnerable. Using stronger engines, bigger nets and advanced navigational tools and electronics, fishermen can drag gear across the ocean floor to depths of 1.2 miles (two kilometers), destroying everything in their path.

The U.N. General Assembly has called on all fishing nations to prohibit high seas bottom trawling that puts habitats and fish stocks at risk. The deep sea of the North Atlantic is the most heavily bottom-trawled high seas area in the world, exploited mainly by the fishing fleets of the European Union. Pew's Protecting the Deep Sea campaign, in partnership with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, is calling on EU member States and other countries to protect these unknown worlds before it is too late.

Pew Campaign for Protecting the Deep Sea

Broken Promises

This week (May 31 to June 3), countries are convening at the United Nations to discuss how to conserve and protect marine life in the two-thirds of the ocean that lies beyond the jurisdiction of any country. This meeting offers an opportunity for the international community to take action to protect the high seas―including deepwater areas―for generations to come.

Pew and coalition partners are asking countries to end destructive deep-sea bottom fishing and to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems by closing access to them. A series of U.N. resolutions has been negotiated and approved since 2004, setting out a regime to protect the biodiversity of the deep ocean. A hard-fought compromise in 2006 called on fishing States and regional fisheries management organizations to act urgently to protect these habitats. After they failed to take sufficient action, the United Nations agreed to additional measures in 2009. Two years later, compliance is patchy at best. Countries have been talking about the pressing need to prevent the destruction of this ocean life for almost a decade, yet the destruction has continued. It's time to keep the promises made to protect deep-sea life—we don't even know what we have already lost.

To follow the deliberations at the United Nations and find out more about deep-sea life, visit