Deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic: What Oceana does

The EU began to manage deep-sea stocks in 2002, but Regulation (EC) 2347/2002 (the ‘deep-sea access regime’) has failed to ensure their sustainable management. Few species are managed with catch limits (total allowable catches or TACs), and these TACs have frequently been set higher than scientifically advised.  Even so, in about 50% of cases, actual catches have exceeded the agreed TACs. Many captured species are not included at all in the regulation and therefore are completely unmanaged, and can be caught in unlimited quantities. The regulation also leaves ecosystems unprotected from damaging bottom gears, and fails to reflect international commitments made by the EU through United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72, which call upon flag states to implement conservation and management measures to protect VMEs.

The European Commission tabled a proposal for a new regulation in 2012, which aims to ensure sustainable exploitation of deep-sea fisheries, to minimize environmental impacts, and to improve scientific knowledge about these resources and habitats. The issue is currently being debated in the European Parliament, in the hopes of reaching a final agreement with the Fisheries Council in 2014. During this process, Oceana is developing information materials and holding ongoing meetings with decision-makers calling for the following:

  • The list of deep-sea species should be expanded to include all deep-sea species that are captured.
  • Deep‐sea sharks should all be categorised as most vulnerable species.
  • No fishing opportunities should be allocated for species classified as most vulnerable.
  • Fishing opportunities should be fixed with explicit consideration of impacts on non-target species, and with preferential access for more selective, lower-impact practices.
  • Areas where Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems occur or are likely to occur should be identified and closed to fishing with bottom gears.
  • The issuance and renewal of vessel authorisations for deep-sea fishing should be strictly conditional upon cooperation with scientific data collection.