SPAIn - 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 per cent 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.
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