Actor and environmental activist Ted Danson, a member of Oceana’s Board of Directors, has joined the effort to protect threatened seafloor habitat in international waters by signing a Deep Sea Conservation Coalition statement, which urges the United Nations General Assembly to put a moratorium on destructive bottom trawling on the high seas.
The statement says: “Urgent action must be taken to stop destructive bottom trawling fishing before it is too late. An entire seamount ecosystem which has taken thousands of years to grow is destroyed in 15 minutes worth of high seas bottom trawl fishing, killing countless species – some still unknown to science. The damage caused is unrecoverable, the loss to humankind incalculable.”
“We certainly appreciate Danson’s interest in this effort to protect some of the richest biodiversity on Earth,” said Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s North America vice president and chief scientist. “Danson is a well-regarded ocean conservation advocate who successfully worked most recently to protect important ocean habitat in California. His participation in the international campaign will certainly help raise the awareness of this problem world-wide.”
Oceana is a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (www.savethehighseas.org), an international alliance of nearly 30 environmental and conservation organizations representing millions of members in countries around the world, which is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. Scientists from around the world released in February 2004 a public document calling for a moratorium to high seas bottom trawling, identifying it as a major threat to deep sea biodiversity.
The coalition came together because bottom trawling on the high seas is widely unregulated and the U.N. General Assembly has failed to take action to protect high seas ocean habitat. The coalition told the United Nations in October that bottom trawling must be put on hold in order to allow scientists to study the deep sea and create governance structures that will protect it effectively.
Seamounts, or submarine mountains, have diverse ecosystems supporting deep-sea corals, sponges and a variety of marine wildlife. Scientists have discovered some species that exist only around a single seamount. Bottom trawl fishing fleets from 11 countries took about 95 percent of the 2001 high seas bottom trawl catch.
Oceana’s North America office is working at the national and regional levels to protect deep-sea coral gardens and other sensitive habitats that exist in U.S. waters off most of the American coastline. Legislation was introduced in Congress this year to protect deep-sea corals from destructive trawling and will be re-introduced in the new Congress in 2005.