Iceland harpoons deep-sea protection

Feature story - 23 November, 2006
The proposed moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling was harpooned today at the UN, as Iceland put the interests of their fishing fleets above other countries and scientific advice (sound familiar?). Even Canada and Spain gave in to common sense in the end.Today Iceland has single-handedly destroyed its own reputation as a nation with responsible fishing policies. The decision affects 64 percent of the world's oceans, and the food security of future generations.

The strange-looking deep sea creature known as the Blobfish (Genus Psychrolutes).

Karen Sack, our Oceans Policy Advisor, said after an all-night wait atthe UN:  "The final agreement has more loopholes in it than afisherman's sweater, and it does nothing to significantly change theway our oceans are managed."  That's exceptionally bad newsconsidering that a recent scientific evaulation has shown that ifnothing changes, most commercial fisheries will have collapsed by 2048.

Don't blame Canada, blame Iceland

Thanksto Ocean Defenders, scientists, journalists and South Park fans allover the globe, as well as enthusiastic "squid" and "orange roughy"handing out leaflets to New York taxi drivers, even Canada and Spainsupported strong action at the UN in the end.  In the last twoweeks alone, Canada and Spain have received 71,266 emails from OceanDefenders!  Other supporters included Australia, New Zealand, thePacific Island States, the USA, Brazil, India, South Africa, Chile,Germany and the EU.  However, their drive to win consensus at allcosts has resulted in a weakly worded, useless piece of paper that willallow for the unregulated plunder of the high seas.

Maybe Iceland should have listened to one of itsown fishermen, thanks to him we have underwater video of a bottom trawling.  Watch his reactionwhen he sees what bottom trawling is doing to theseabed:

"The international community should be outraged that Icelandcould almost singlehandedly sink deep-sea protection and the foodsecurity of future generations. Iceland should be embarrassed as shouldall those states that did not stand up to them and fight for the futureof the oceans," Karen adds.

Arrogance and ignorance

Icelandand its fishing cronies, opposed to the UN moratorium on high-seasbottom trawling, should realize that for the sake of their own futureindustries, this cannot continue. The oceans are not a bottomlessresource- as recent scientific reports have confirmed (not that Icelandapparently pays much attention to scientists, having just ignored 1500of them). Economically speaking, the high-seas bottom trawl fleet would operate at a losswithout the substantial subsidies it receives.  Of course apartfrom just commerical interests, the as-yet undiscovered ecosystems ofthe deep sea are at stake.

Iceland showed even more arrogance inasking why Canada and Spain had got all the negative press, accordingto UN sources.  Perhaps because so far they have constantlyinsisted that they are supportive of well-managed fisheries. Today they showed their true colours.

All is not lost

Allof the countries that committed to supporting a moratorium now have theopportunity to protect vulnerable habitats from destructive fishing bytightening market access to bottom-trawled fish.  These countriescan also support the establishment of a global network of marine reservesacross the world's oceans, and make sure that their nations are notinvolved in high seas bottom trawl fishing.  They can alsoimplement strong measures regionally to protect the deep-seas.

Take action!

Our guide to which fish are bottom-trawled can be found here. Avoid at all costs, and if you’re not sure, ask your retailers. We suggest also buying fish only from sustainable, well-managed fisheries and from countries that support such initiatives.

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