Fragile deep-sea habitats that have taken centuries to grow are destroyed within hours by these bottom trawlers. Commercially valuable catch ends up in fish markets, restaurants, and even school lunches, while everything else is discarded. Most of the species that are caught reproduce slowly. For example, orange roughy can live for more than 100 years and only start reproducing between ages 23 and 40. The deep sea is also home to remarkably rich coral systems. Once thought to inhabit only warm, shallow waters of tropical and subtropical regions, corals appeared to have been thriving in deep, dark, and cold waters throughout the world for millions of years. Indeed, it is now thought that there are more coral species living at great ocean depths than in tropical shallows.
Carbon dating of living cold-water coral reefs has revealed that the oldest may have existed for more than 8,000 years. Several of the coral species create complex reefs and ornate, forest-like structures that rival tropical coral systems in their size and complexity. In fact, the oldest and tallest reef yet observed is 35 meters high, about 114 feet. It will take hundreds of years, if not longer, for these deep-sea ecosystems to recover from destructive fishing methods.
The U.N. General Assembly has called on all fishing nations to manage fish stocks sustainably and to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices, including bottom trawling. The North Atlantic is the most heavily bottom- trawled area in the world and is exploited mainly by the fishing fleets of the European Union. The Pew Charitable Trusts, a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, is calling on the EU and other states fishing in the North Atlantic to abide by the General Assembly’s resolutions, to which they have all unanimously agreed, and to support the proposal from the European Commission to phase out the EU’s fleet of deep-sea bottom trawlers.
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The European Union’s Council of Fisheries Ministers on Nov. 10 agreed to 2015 and 2016 fishing limits for deep-sea fish stocks that exceed the levels recommended by the scientific advice. Read More
Karmenu Vella of Malta took office on 1 November as European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries, and Maritime Affairs. Despite improvements in recent years, the marine environment has undergone sustained degradation, largely a result of human activities such as overfishing. Vella faces many challenges, but with them a significant opportunity for leadership on fisheries issues. Read More
The European Commission on Oct. 3 published its proposal for fishing limits, known as Total Allowable Catches (TACs), for deep-sea fish stocks caught in 2015-2016 by European Union vessels. Read More
Scotland's Beauty Runs Deep
Support the call to protect Scotland's deep sea from destructive bottom trawling.