DSCC Campaign Update
Things are heating up in Europe with the release of a proposal by the European Commission for a new deep sea fisheries regulation for European waters and elsewhere in the North Atlantic. The proposal includes the phase out of bottom trawling and bottom gillnet fishing for deep sea species.

One of the biggest deep sea trawl fleets in Europe is owned by a French company, which in turn is owned by French supermarket chain Intermarché. Perhaps not coincidentally, French government officials were busy this summer trying to block the Commission’s proposal. Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) member organization Bloom exposed some of the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering in the French press.

Thanks to this and other efforts, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, prevailed and the proposal was released on 19 July. The Commission proposal was welcomed by many of the DSCC members working in Europe, including Greenpeace, the Pew Environment Group, Oceana, Marine Conservation Society, Bloom and Seas at Risk, and WWF with whom we partner on Northeast Atlantic deep sea work. (Please forgive us if we have missed anyone in this list and let us know who you are so that we can share the credit!)Things calmed down a bit in August – holiday time for much of Europe – but revved up again this month. More on that in the next brief – or keep track of the News section on the DSCC web site.

NEAFC Review

In other news, as you may know, the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is reviewing its deep sea fisheries regulations this year for consistency with the United Nations General Assembly resolutions.

As part of that review, NEAFC held a one day workshop in London on 25 June to get input for scientists, NGOs and others. The DSCC made a presentation, as did DSCC member Seas at Risk.For the presentation, Dr. Chris Yesson of the Zoological Society of London mapped the probability of soft corals (octocorals) occurring in the NEAFC Regulatory Area, using biogeographic information and predictive modeling. Lo and behold, he found that the areas that NEAFC has designated as ‘fishing areas’ where vessels are freeto fish without conducting prior impact assessments are the areas where these types of corals are most likely to occur – although Chris stresses that surveys or impact assessments are needed to determine whether or not there are corals in these areas.

Changes to the NEAFC regulations – if any – will be made at the NEAFC annual meeting in November. Preliminary feedback suggests that NEAFC may take on board some of the DSCC recommendations, but in several important areas it does not seem that NEAFC is willing to acknowledge key concerns that we have raised over their management of deep-sea fisheries.

North Pacific Fisheries Commission

A meeting of the “3rd Preparatory Conference” for the new North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) took place during thelast week of August. The DSCC attended the meeting as did DSCC member Oceana, including the meeting of the NPFC’s Scientific Working Group. Of ongoing concern to the DSCC is the fact that the impact assessments done in 2008 by Japan, South Korea and Russia – the three countries deep-sea bottom fishing on seamounts in the high seas of the Northwest Pacific – contained a lot of scientific uncertainty. These fisheries take place onseamounts along the Emperor Seamount Chain which runs for over a thousand kilometers from the Hawaiian Seamount chain north to the Aleutian Islands. The 2008 impact assessments were inconclusive regarding the types and locations of ecosystemson the seamounts and whether bottom fishing, including bottom trawling, would cause damage.

In spite of these uncertainties, the impact assessments have not been revised and, in fact, the Scientific Working Group had not met since 2010. Moreover, Canada informed the meeting that it has permitted vessels to fish on several seamounts on the high seas in the Northeast Pacific since the mid 1990s but has only just begun the process of conducting assessments to determine what the impact of the fishing might be.

On the positive side, Japan, Canada (together with the US) and Russia did conduct several surveys of a number of seamounts and provided the information on their findings to the meeting. The DSCC urged North Pacific countries to renew efforts to improve the scientific understanding of the areas where they permit fishing to take place, undertake more comprehensive surveys and impact assessments, and better protect the seamountecosystems in the region.in line with the UNGA resolutions committing them to do so.

Source: Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), Newsletter 02 October 2012