Deep-Sea Fisheries and Vulnerable Ecosystems in the Northeast Atlantic
A new European Commission proposal to overhaul the regulation of deep-sea fisheries in the northeast Atlantic Ocean is a promising step toward transforming the area into a sustainable fishery. The proposal would repeal Council Regulation (EC) 2347/2002 (the ‘deep-sea access regime') and establish new conditions for EU vessels fishing for deep-sea species in the northeast Atlantic.
The proposal builds upon key scientific findings showing that many deep-sea stocks are highly vulnerable to overfishing and that deep-sea fishing threatens biodiversity by damaging vulnerable marine ecosystems. The proposal contains positive elements, including a phase out of destructive bottom trawls and bottom gillnets to target deepsea species. But it must be strengthened to ensure the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fisheries and preserve many of the last unexplored habitats in the world.
The Pew Environment Group calls for the following elements in a new deep-sea access regime:
- End destructive fishing practices through a phase out of bottom trawling and bottom gillnet fishing in the deep sea.
- Require impact assessments for all deep-sea fisheries.
- Ensure that fishing is permitted only if the catch, including any bycatch, is scientifically proven to be sustainable and if fishing practices include science-based protections for vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species.
- Ensure that deep-sea fisheries are managed to prevent adverse impacts on deep-sea ecosystems, including deep-sea corals, sponges, and seamounts.