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Scientists and the fishing industry know the deep sea is teeming with life and are slowly discovering ecosystems that are extraordinary in nature, often hosting species found nowhere else on the planet. Scientists have speculated that more than 10 million species may inhabit the deep sea; biodiversity comparable to the world’s richest tropical rainforests.
Recent advances in bottom trawl technology make it possible to fish the deep sea's rugged floors, mountain peaks and canyons. Stronger engines, bigger nets, more precise mapping and advanced navigational and fish-finding electronics have enabled fishing vessels to drag fishing gear across the ocean’s floor as far as 1.2 miles (two kilometers) deep. As a result, fragile deep-sea habitats, which have taken centuries to grow and thrive, are destroyed in hours.
The deep sea of the North Atlantic is the most heavily bottom trawled area of the high seas in the world, exploited mainly by the fishing fleets of the European Union (EU). Pew, a member of the global Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, is calling on the EU and other nations fishing the North Atlantic to protect the unknown worlds of the deep sea or stop deep sea bottom fishing altogether.
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