This week marks the official release of a report from an international scientific workshop held in Lisbon in May 2011 (PDF here). The workshop brought together 22 scientists and fisheries experts from around the world to consider the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2009 on high seas bottom fisheries. Specifically, what progress has been made and what are the outstanding issues?
Unfortunately, this group of experts found implementation to be lacking (the same conclusion presented in the new DSCC review – Unfinished Business).
Here are some key conclusions:
Generally, there has been a failure of regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to collect the necessary data for environmental impact assessments, so these assessments have been nonexistent, partial or inconclusive. Many areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are likely to occur are still being fished and the precautionary principle is not being applied…
No RFMOs have responded in the same way to the resolutions. Instead, RFMOs have taken independent action with varying degrees of effectiveness. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR) has come closest to fully implementing the provisions of the UNGA resolutions…
[M]uch fishing activity is carried out in the absence of knowledge on fish stock structure, genetics and life-history characteristics of either the fished species or the bycatch species. This makes it impossible to use conventional fisheries management measures such as catch quotas, which are based on estimates of stock biomass. Hence other approaches, such as closures of large areas, will need to be taken.
Clearly, it is time for the international community to take action and ensure that high seas bottom fishing nations follow through on their international commitments.