Commitments were made at the UN General Assembly in 2006 to
protect the bio-diversity of the deep-sea from bottom trawling.
Next week in Chile we'll see if the politicians can actually
deliver what they promised.
Will the South Pacific fisheries agreement deliver protection
for the high seas?
We certainly hope so. The governments of the South Pacific, plus
those of countries wanting to take advantage of one of the last
high seas fisheries frontiers, are meeting to form a new fisheries
Given the perilous state of global fish stocks, this agreement
has special significance. It can't be solely about dividing up the
ocean wealth: it needs to protect the ocean's health.
Photo by Gavin Newman
Populations of top predators, a key indicator of an ecosystem's
stability, are disappearing at a frightening rate, and 90 percent
of the large fish that many of us love to eat, such as tuna,
swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder - have been
fished out since large scale industrial fishing began in the
The depletion of these top predator species can cause a shift in
entire oceans ecosystems where commercially valuable fish are
replaced by smaller, plankton-feeding fish. This century may even
see bumper crops of jellyfish replacing the fish consumed by
Photo by Gavin Newman
Politicians and officials agree that they need to do better to
ensure not only the protection of the fish stocks but also the
diverse marine ecosystem on which they depend.
Time for action
For three years Greenpeace has worked with the Deep Sea
Conservation Coalition and its 60 member organizations to get a
global moratorium on the destructive fishing practice of bottom
trawling in the high seas. Rather than agreeing to the moratorium,
in October 2006 all governments agreed to a United Nations General
It is clear from current scientific information that we don't
know enough about deep-sea ecosystems to protect them. It is
estimated that between half a million and five million deep-sea
species are as yet undiscovered. We know more about Mars than we
do our own deep-sea environment.
The only genuinely precautionary approach is to close areas
where these vulnerable ecosystems are occur, or are likely to
occur, until adequate scientific assessments have been carried out,
and effective conservation and management measures implemented.
'Paragorgia' coral dredged from a deep
sea net. Photo by Malcolm Pullman
For fisheries agreements under development - like the one in the
South Pacific - the deadline to implement these measures to protect
deep sea ecosystems is December 2007. Here and now is the time for
these Governments to put in place the commitments they made in
This meeting must not just be about countries carving up the
pie, each making sure they get a big enough slice. The agreement
must include measures that will ensure not only the sustainability
of the fish stocks, but also protection of our deep sea marine