Over 1000 of the world's foremost marine scientists released a strong statement calling on governments and the UN to act swiftly to protect the imperilled biological diversity of vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. The statement was released simultaneously at the Summit for Life on Earth, the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the USA.
Coral life in the Belau Islands, North Pacific.
The Scientists urge the United Nations to establish a moratorium
on the most destructive fishing method: bottom trawling on the High
Seas. They urge individual nations and states to ban bottom
trawling to protect deep-sea ecosystems wherever coral forests and
reefs are known to occur within their Exclusive Economic Zones.
They urge them to prohibit roller and rockhopper trawls, which
allow fishermen to trawl on the rough bottoms where deep-sea corals
are most likely to occur. Governments are urged to support research
and mapping of deep-sea coral and sponge communities. And they ask
governments to establish effective, representative networks of
marine protected areas that include deep-sea coral and sponge
Scientists have recently discovered undersea coral forests and
reefs scattered throughout the cold and deep ocean waters of the
world. Some corals resemble "trees" up to 10 meters tall; others
form dense thickets. Hundreds or thousands of species live in these
cold-water coral forests and reefs, leading scientists to call them
the "rainforests of the deep." But even before scientists can find
them, deep-sea coral ecosystems are being destroyed by commercial
fishing, especially bottom trawling.
Deep-sea bottom trawlers are fishing vessels that drag huge nets
with steel weights or heavy rollers along the seafloor to catch
Deep Water fish species. The trawls smash corals and sponges and
rip them from the seafloor.
"Bottom-trawling in the deep-sea is like clear-cutting a
pristine ancient forest. Each trawl destroys everything in its
path. In the interest of catching a few fish, hundreds of species
-some of which have not even been identified - are destroyed," said
Thilo Maack of Greenpeace. "Governments at the Convention on
Biological Diversity must pass a resolution recommending that the
United Nations General Assembly adopt an immediate moratorium on
high seas bottom trawling and put an immediate halt to this
Notes: Go to www.mcbi.org to see the Statement, complete list of signers, as well as striking photographs of deep-sea corals and the impacts of trawling on seafloor ecosystems that reporters may use, with appropriate acknowledgment.