UN: bottom trawling protection “woefully inadequate”

Feature story - 18 July, 2006
After two years, the UN has finally confirmed what everyone knew already: measures taken to protect deep-sea life from destructive fishing practices such as high seas bottom trawling is “woefully inadequate” and that “urgent action is required now by the international community”. Can we say, “told you so?”

Greenpeace activists use wire cables to tie the trawl doors together on the bottom trawler Ocean Reward (NZ).

It's taken two years for this UN review, launched in mid-July,  toconfirm what everyone knew already: that  deep-sea life andvulnerable habitats like cold water corals are being wiped out by arelatively few number of extremely destructive fishing vessels. That'stwo years in which extinctions have almost certainly occurred and vastareas of deep sea ecosystems have been destroyed forever.   (You can see in this map of protected areas how little of the high seas are actually protected - some areas are mere pin points!)

"The UN must take the only step which can halt this uncontrolleddestruction, to establish a moratorium on high seas bottom trawlingwhen the General Assembly (UNGA) meets in October," says Karen Sackoceans policy advisor to Greenpeace International.

The review

The review was requested by the UN General Assembly in 2004 and wasconducted by the UN Secretary General.  It is based on submissionsby member states reporting on what they have done individually, and asmembers of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOS), to stopdestructive fishing practices - including bottom trawling - on the highseas.  It concluded that, "many fisheries are not managed untilthey are overexploited and clearly depleted … This raises the questionof the urgent need for interim measures in particular circumstances,pending the adoption of conservation and management regimes."

Well we could have told them that. Actually, we did.   Andwe're not alone - Greenpeace is a member of the Deep Sea ConservationCoalition (DSCC), an alliance of nearly 60 international environmentaland conservation organisations who have been campaigning for amoratorium on high seas bottom trawling since 2003.

The buck stops here

Matthew Gianni from the DSCC said, "NGOs, scientists, even governmentshave repeatedly said that the existing measures are inadequate and thata Review would only confirm this.  Sadly it is a Review which hascost the deep oceans two years worth of protection.  This must nowbe the year when the buck passing stops."

Our Oceans Campaigner Sari Tolvanen was even more outspoken.  "Ifthe international community fails to take action to protect the globalcommons when the evidence is so clearcut, one must seriously call intoquestion its ability to manage other global resources of benefit to allhumankind," she said in response to the report.

The negotiations around a moratorium will occur at the UN GeneralAssembly on October 4 and 5 prior to decisions being made in Novemberon a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

Many of our Ocean Defenders have participated in this issue, withgovernments receiving tens of thousands of emails asking them to "stopthe clock" on bottom trawling.

A summary of the UN review

Download a digestible 3 page summary of the UN review prepared by our political advisor Karen

Be an Ocean Defender

Help us continue to pressure governments into calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling