Preliminary Findings: High Seas Fishing Nations Fail Important UN Commitments

"Fishing which does not follow the resolutions should be considered illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU)."

-Andrea Kavanagh, manager, Protecting the Deep Sea

On June 2, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) presented preliminary findings of a comprehensive review of how countries have implemented the UN General Assembly resolutions on deep-sea bottom fishing at a meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York. The full report will highlight serious failures by countries and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) in efforts to protect vulnerable deep-sea biodiversity and high seas fish species.

Matthew Gianni of the DSCC said, “Fishing nations have had five years to get their houses in order and fulfill the clear commitments they have made to protect the deep seas. They haven't done so across most of the ocean. Until they do, the fishing must stop.”

To comply with the UN resolutions, fishing nations and RFMOs committed to take certain measures to ensure that vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are protected and deep-sea fish species are not overexploited. If they cannot do so, they are required to stop fishing. The DSCC findings clearly indicate that it is time for them to stop deep-sea fishing on the high seas.

Andrea Kavanagh, Director of the Pew Environment Group's Protecting the Deep Sea Project said, “It's time for the rest of the world to hold nations and RFMOs that allow their vessels to fish in a manner contrary to the UN resolutions on bottom fishing, accountable for their actions. Fishing which does not follow the resolutions should be considered illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU).”

The main findings of the preliminary review are:deep-preliminary-findings-fish

  • Most deep-sea fisheries have been heavily depleted.
  • With the exception of the RFMO covering the Antarctic (CCAMLR) all RFMOs and States have fallen so far short of meeting the UN requirements as to warrant immediate closure of their deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.
  • Some high seas areas have been closed to bottom fishing but many vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) remain open with few or no constraints.
  • In response to pressure from the fishing industry there has been a general reluctance to close areas where most bottom fishing currently takes place, or has taken place in recent years.
  • Failure to effectively implement the resolutions risks undermining the authority and efficacy of the UN General Assembly as the preeminent body with oversight and responsibility for the conservation and protection of the biodiversity of the high seas – a global ocean commons. This would set an important negative precedent for a range of other issues likely to arise around governance of biodiversity outside national jurisdiction in the coming years.
  • The UN General Assembly must make it clear to high seas bottom fishing nations that unless or until the resolutions have been fully and effectively implemented, fishing must be prohibited. Other nations must declare that any fish caught in contravention of the resolutions should be considered IUU.

The preliminary findings can be found here.

The Pew Environment Group is a member of the DSCC and currently sits on its Steering Committee.