Deep Trouble for the Deep Sea

The deep sea, home to some of the world's most unusual creatures, is teeming with biological diversity, most of which has yet to be scientifically documented. But in spite of the wonders that exist far below the surface, the deep sea is being destroyed.

While threats to this fragile marine habitat are not new, the blatant failure of high-seas fishing countries to safeguard deep-sea ecosystems can no longer be ignored.

A new report, Unfinished Business: A Review of the Implementation of the Provisions of UNGA Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 (PDF), reveals that many high-seas fishing countries and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) have failed to implement measures to protect the deep sea. This comes five years after the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) passed the first of several resolutions outlining how vulnerable deep-sea biodiversity should be safeguarded. The study by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition also highlights how bottom fishing in the deep sea continues with few or no constraints. 

Earlier this year, a group of 22 marine scientists and experts from across the globe gathered in Lisbon, Portugal, to take a close look at the effectiveness and implementation of these resolutions. Unfortunately, they, too, determined that little is being done. They stressed that the sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks and by-catch species is one of the most significant failures in the uneven implementation of the resolutions.

This month, the UNGA will convene once again to review high-seas fishing practices, and fishing nations will be assessed to see if they have done what they pledged to do: protect deep-sea life while fishing in a sustainable way

The answer, according to deep-sea experts and environmental organizations around the world, is ‘no.'

Enough is enough. High seas fishing nations have had five years to follow the UNGA resolutions. Those that are not implementing them must suspend deep-sea bottom fishing immediately. Deep-sea fishing in breach of these resolutions is illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. The United Nations must make this clear.

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