10 facts you may not know about deep-sea fisheries

© OCEANA

Author: Natividad Sánchez
Date: April 10, 2014



The EU is in the process of reforming its current regulation on deep-sea fishing in the North-East Atlantic. This law dates back to 2002 and has proven to be very ineffective – deep-sea species have not been managed sustainably, and fisheries have been permitted to damage vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. Do you know the facts about these fisheries and their impacts?

  1. The EU fleet in the North-East Atlantic fishes at depths of up to 1,500 m.
  2. It catches around one hundred deep-sea species, most of which are by-catch and have no commercial value.
  3. Currently there are catch limits for only 11 commercial species, and no limits for the rest.
  4. Of the one hundred species caught, the Commission is now proposing to regulate just 54. Out of these, 21 species are considered to be depleted or at risk of depletion, and the status of a further 26 species is completely unknown – that is, they may also be depleted.
  5. How is it possible? Well, in just twenty years (1990-2010), EU deep-sea fishing capacity increased by 37-47%.
  6. Deep-sea species can’t keep up with the extractive pace of industrial fishing, because most of them grow slowly and have few offspring. The populations of some sharks take around 50 years to double in size, but fishing boats don’t wait so long before resuming their activity…
  7. Various fishing gears are used, but bottom trawlers account for 52% of catches.
  8. EU deep-sea trawls catch between 40 and 100 non-target species. Discard rates average 50% of a haul, and up to 80% of some hauls are discarded.
  9. In fact, deep-sea bottom trawls and gillnets are already prohibited in other parts of the EU because of their impacts on deep-sea habitats and high levels of discards. Thousand-year-old corals, sponge beds and other creatures of no commercial value are killed for nothing.
  10. There’s no economic justification for any of the above: catches of deep-sea species represent only 1% of total EU catches in the North-East Atlantic. These catches are dominated by three EU Member States: Spain, France, and Portugal.

This is why we’re pushing for a new, improved deep-sea fishing regulation. Will you help us by signing this petition, calling on Spain to take the lead on real management of deep-sea fisheries?