Environmental NGOs launch petition calling on Spanish minister to protect the deep sea

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Spain, the main European Member State involved in deep-sea fisheries, holds major responsibility to protect these vulnerable ecosystems


April 8, 2014
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Ecologistas en Acción, Greenpeace, Oceana and WWF have launched a petition to demand that the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment lead efforts to protect deep-sea ecosystems, during negotiations currently taking place in Brussels. Spain is the leading EU Member State engaged in these fisheries, accounting for half of all EU captures of deep-sea species in the North-East Atlantic Ocean.

In this region, deep-sea fisheries are carried out between 200-1500 metres below sea level. These extreme environments are characterised by cold temperatures, a lack of nutrients, and darkness, and as a result the unique organisms that live there grow slowly and have few offspring. Therefore, they are very vulnerable to human impacts, particularly to activities such as deep-sea bottom trawling, which destroys habitats such as deep-sea coral reefs and can throw away, dead, up to 80% of total catches.

The petition has been launched to coincide with EU government negotiations on the reform of the current regulation on deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic (Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002), which has proven to be ineffective in protecting these fragile ecosystems during the last ten years. For example, it allows destructive fishing gears to raze sponge aggregations and millennium-old corals, and only sets catch limits for 11 commercial species out of roughly 100 deep-sea species that are captured in the region.

The range of measures requested by the NGOs include the identification of areas that contain Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, the progressive phase-out of destructive fishing gears, the implementation of measures to minimise by-catch, and setting levels of fishing in accordance with scientific advice.

Deep-sea biodiversity is comparable with that of tropical rainforests and shallow-water coral reefs. Spain has the obligation to comply with international environmental commitments made through the United Nations, regarding the sustainable management of deep-sea fisheries and the effective protection of this natural heritage.

Sign the petition: “Don’t let the deep sea be decimated”