The Beacon

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European Deep-sea Fisheries at Risk

Deep-sea fisheries: Exploiting the most vulnerable species from Oceana on Vimeo.

Today the European Commission proposed new catch limits for 2013 and 2014 that will allow fishermen to exploit some little-known but important deep-sea fishes against the advice of scientists. As this video of the European deep-sea prepared by our European office demonstrates, even though light doesn’t penetrate to the ocean bottom, it's still thriving with life. It's a strange world and the animals themselves often have fittingly strange names, like the Mediterranean slimehead, greater forkbeard, and conger, to name a few.

Some species, like the roundnose grenadier, blue ling and red seabream, need special protection. Executive Director of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor explains why:

“Due to their biological characteristics, like low reproduction, slow growth rate and late maturity, deep sea species are highly vulnerable to overexploitation. Their management must, now more than ever, follow the precautionary approach.”

European fishermen have increasingly turned to scouring the deep-sea for fish as more traditional stocks have fallen and pirate fishermen have been able to hammer stocks of threatened deep-sea sharks through the sale of shark liver oil in the EU.

Right now Oceana’s research vessel, the Oceana Ranger, is sailing off of the picturesque Algarve section of Portugal using an underwater robot, known as an ROV, to explore and document the scarcely seen world of seamounts, deep-sea coral reefs and seafloor habitat. It’s an effort that will help scientists develop conservation proposals and better protect this vital ecosystem--one that can be obliterated in an instant by bottom trawlers. Keep up with the Ranger expedition online and check out the latest pictures and video.


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