Archived Project

Protecting the Deep Sea

Copy the URL for use in an RSS reader:


The Pew Charitable Trusts and its partners in the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition are working to end destructive deep-sea fishing practices around the world, most notably bottom trawling. Our objective is to achieve major improvements to ecosystem and habitat protections by 2014 in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, where both exclusive economic zones and the high seas beyond national jurisdictions are heavily targeted by deep-sea fishing fleets. The campaign has already seen some success toward this goal: The European Commission proposed legislation on July 19, 2012, that would phase out over two years targeted deep-sea bottom trawling and bottom gillnet fishing by EU fleets in the northeast Atlantic. Pew is advocating for European legislators—the European Parliament and the EU Council—to adopt that legislation

The Commission’s proposal follows a series of U.N. General Assembly resolutions that call on fishing countries and regional fisheries management organizations to move urgently to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from the destructive effect of bottom fisheries on the high seas. Much of what the U.N. resolutions ask States and regional organizations to do is contained in the European Commission proposal. And those provisions align directly with Pew’s objectives.

Specifically, we ask the European Union, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission to:

  • End deep-sea overfishing by ensuring that fishing, including any catch of non-target species, is limited to sustainable levels based on a clear scientific understanding of the status of deep-sea stocks and associated precautionary science-based management.
  • Manage deep-sea fisheries to minimize and, where possible, eliminate the bycatch of non-target species and to prevent the catch of the most vulnerable species. 
  • Require vessels to report catches of all deep-sea species, not just target species.
  • Prevent adverse effects on vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems, such as corals, sponges, and seamounts, through appropriate management of deep-sea fisheries, for example, closing areas to deep-sea bottom fishing.
  • Require impact assessments for all deep-sea fisheries, including existing and new fishing areas, before granting authorization to fish.  These impact assessments must be consistent with the global standard established by the U.N. General Assembly and the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas set by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • Strengthen the definition of deep-sea fisheries to ensure that all bottom fisheries below 200 meters are effectively regulated for the impact on both the seabed and species.
  • Phase out the most destructive deep-sea fishing practices, including bottom trawling, for deep-sea species.

Media Contact

Andy Fisher

Senior Director, Communications