States meeting at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week agreed that urgent action is needed to protect biological diversity in the high seas and deep sea.
WWF said it welcomes this announcement and congratulates the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), a coalition of 70 organisations working together to protect cold-water corals and vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. WWF praises their efforts in keeping the pressure on high seas bottom trawling nations and reporting on the performance of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) whose role is to implement previous UNGA fisheries resolutions.
A new resolution on sustainable fisheries calls on high seas fishing nations and RFMOs to fully implement resolutions previously adopted by the UNGA to protect deep-sea ecosystems and species from the harmful effects of bottom trawling and other methods of deep-sea fishing.
“It's critical that the UNGA continues this level of oversight with regard to deep-sea life lest it become a case of ‘out of sight out of mind'. The planet's largest biosphere remains the least protected and the most in need of international attention,” said Matthew Gianni of the DSCC.
The resolution further calls for stronger procedures for conducting environmental impact assessments of high seas bottom fisheries, states to publicize “without delay” the assessments and improved compliance with deep-sea fisheries regulations.
Bottom trawl fishing, the most common method of bottom fishing on the high seas, involves dragging heavy steel plates, cables and large nets across the ocean floor. This can severely damage deep-sea coral reefs, sponge fields and other vulnerable deep-sea habitats and species. Numerous scientific reports have concluded that bottom trawl fishing is the greatest threat to deep-sea life today.
At the same meeting, member states are also negotiating the UN resolution on oceans and the Law of the Sea, which addresses the inadequate provisions for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and which focuses on areas beyond national jurisdiction.
WWF is following the negotiations with interest, urging the UNGA via its marine biodiversity working group to develop strong mechanisms for affording protection and sustainable management of marine resources on the high seas.
“While we hail the well-intentioned commitments by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish, by 2020, a network of marine protected areas which cover at least 10 per cent of the world's oceans, there is currently no legal instrument to accomplish this on the high seas,” said Daniela Diz, PhD, Senior Officer, Marine Policy, WWF-Canada.
The legal framework for protecting ecosystems, species and habitats on the high seas, which comprises two thirds of our oceans is weak. While there are global conventions and organisations managing fisheries and regulating human activities such as shipping, there is no global legal framework to effectively take biodiversity conservation measures into consideration.
Although regional bodies have endeavoured to establish high seas marine protected areas, implementation has been hampered by the lack of such a global instrument.
"The marine biodiversity working group having the mandate to strengthen the legal framework would be a very successful outcome of this year's United Nations General Assembly resolution on oceans and the Law of the Sea,” Ms Diz said.
Republished with permission from SeafoodNews.com