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Portugal Protects Vast Area from Trawling

05 June 2014

PORTUGAL - The Portuguese government has issued a decree prohibiting all deep-sea fishing - with the exception of longlining, which is authorized under certain conditions - in an area spanning 2,280,000 km2, to promote sustainable fisheries and the conservation of deep-sea ecosystems. Oceana applauds this decision, which includes a ban on trawling, and urges that the ban be extended to the EU’s entire fleet and internationally.

“Portugal has made a significant step to ensure that its fleet is exploiting deep-sea ecosystems sustainably. We hope that this measure, which will affect an area four times the size of the Iberian Peninsula, inspires other countries with fishing interests in the area to adopt similar bans,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

“Portugal should take it a step further by banning bottom trawling and other forms of destructive fishing in waters where they are more commonly used, and adopting several other conservation measures.”

This decree will also contribute to building up the information database on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) by establishing a requirement to collect samples of accidentally captured corals and sponges.

VME’s are unique and fragile biodiversity reservoirs that play a critical role in hosting breeding, feeding, and sheltering grounds for many other organisms. While some can reach over a hundred years old, they grow very slowly, which makes them very sensitive to the impacts of fishing and particularly to trawling.

“Portugal’s initiative will protect valuable VME’s in the Atlantic North East, including important coral reefs and sponge aggregations,” added Ricardo Aguilar, director de research at Oceana in Europe.

“It will increase the amount of available information on these areas, which is currently very limited, making them hard to manage effectively.”

The approved decree will be presented at the next meeting of the OSPAR Commission, which will take place in the last week of June, in Cascais (Portugal).

Oceana will attend this meeting as an observer, and will take part in the monitoring process of the management recommendations that the organisation has drafted for this convention on vulnerable ecosystems, such as “seamounts”, “maerl beds”, and the Cymodocea nodosa.seagrass.

TheFishSite News Desk

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