Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Our UN Work for 2011

The United Nations building in New York. Source

Since the beginning, one of the major pieces of work for the DSCC has been to secure permanent protection for vulnerable deepsea ecosystems and species from deep-sea fishing on the high seas.  And this work has largely been carried out at the United Nations, the highest authority for such international waters. 

Over the years, we’ve had quite a bit of success.  Our work, along with our partner organizations, led to UN General Assembly resolution 61/105, which was unanimously agreed to by UN member states in December 2006.  And in 2009, our work led to UN General Assembly resolution 64/72, which reaffirmed and strengthened the prior resolution. 

As a result, the United Nations has established that deep-sea fishing can only take place under three specific conditions:

1.     Environmental impact assessments must be conducted by fishing countries prior to deep-sea fishing on the high seas.  If there is no way to prevent ‘significant adverse impacts’, then deep-sea fishing is not to occur.

2.     High seas areas are to be closed to bottom fishing where vulnerable species and ecosystems are known or likely to occur, unless significant adverse impacts can be prevented.

3.     Deep-sea fishing must be sustainable.  That is, high seas fishing countries must not deplete deep-sea species, regardless of whether they are commercially targeted or accidentally caught.

And yet, in spite of these strong UN resolutions, vulnerable deep-sea marine life on the high seas is still largely unprotected.  This is because of significant problems in countries’ implementation of the resolutions. 

As the DSCC documented in a 2010 review of international management measures, the implementation of the UN General Assembly resolutions has been patchy and poor in most areas. For example, no environmental impact assessments have been done for any of the deep-sea fisheries on the high seas of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  This is in stark contrast to the few instances where the resolutions have been properly implemented.  For instance, the regional fisheries treaty organization for the waters around Antarctica – known as 'CCAMLR' - has implemented a near total ban on bottom trawling.

This year the DSCC will be calling for the United Nations to reaffirm its past resolutions and to brand any fishing in contravention of the UN General Assembly  resolutions as ‘illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing’ (otherwise referred to as ‘IUU fishing’). 

The DSCC believes this is the logical next step.  If fishing fleets cannot follow the international agreements of their governments, international monitoring and control measures should be used to stop them.  Although it is for the international community to decide, such measures could include trade sanctions, use of international IUU ‘black lists’, and the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, once it enters into force.

To reach this goal, the DSCC is now preparing another report on the current implementation status of the resolutions.  We’ll also again serve as an important source of information at the UN.  Only a relative handful of nations have vessels deep-sea bottom fishing on the high seas, yet many countries are interested in the issue.  The DSCC is there to provide unbiased information on what has been done.  And of course, the DSCC will be actively campaigning by engaging both policymakers and the broader public. 

Keep an eye out for future posts as we take this message to the United Nations (both this week and beyond)!  

This Week: The United Nations BBNJ Meeting

The United Nations General Assembly. (Source)

This week (31st May – June 3) countries convene at the United Nations BBNJ meeting; ‘The Ad Hoc open-ended informal working group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine Biodiversity Beyond areas of National Jurisdiction.

So how important is this meeting?  VERY.   

Marine areas “beyond national jurisdiction” - that is, outside of any countries’ legal territorial limits - are known as the high seas.  And incredibly, the high seas cover 45% of the entire planet, and 64% of the ocean. 

Among other things, the BBNJ meeting offers an opportunity for the international community to take action to protect the high seas from the destructive impacts of deep sea fishing.  We have the chance to remind the General Assembly of the United Nations of commitments it has already made unanimously in 2004, 2006 and again in 2009.   Moreover we need to hold the key actors to account for any failure to live up to these commitments.

The DSCC will be there to make sure the international community hears about the serious threats to deep sea life and understands what they need to do to conserve the deep sea for future generations! 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Wondrous Deep Sea

The deep-sea ecosystem should officially be named one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. What do I mean?   Well, consider that…

The deep sea is the largest habitat on the planet.  Water deeper than 1000m covers a whopping 62% of the planet. 

Life in the deep sea survives in ways far different than life elsewhere.  Less than 1% of the sun’s rays reach to 150m depth.  This means deep-sea life must migrate upwards for food, scavenge what falls below, or make energy in a completely different way.

The deep sea is far deeper than Everest is high.  The Mariana Trench: 10,911m deep.  Mount Everest: 8,848m high. That’s over a two kilometers of difference! 

And finally, most readers probably already know that the denizens of the deep are pretty amazing to look at.  Here’s a great video from National Geographic and the Census of Marine Life:

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Welcome to the Deep Sea Conservation Blog!

Welcome to the new blog of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition!  We are very happy to be joining the blogosphere.  Some things you can expect in the future are posts on the latest science, interviews with deep-sea political experts and discussions on the challenges and opportunities to conservation in some of the most remote and unknown places on our planet.

But first, just who is the DSCC?  In brief, we are a coalition of over 70 organizations from around the world.  We all care about the wondrous life that exists in the deep sea – both known and unknown - and we all recognize that working together will have far more impact than going it alone. 

Since our start in 2004, we have been working hard to put an end to highly destructive deep-sea fishing practices and to protect highly vulnerable deep-sea species and habitats, like the corals pictured below. 

A lot has been accomplished over the years.  This includes strong resolutions from the United Nations General Assembly, protected areas, and FAO guidelines for the management of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas.

Yet much work remains to be done.  This year is critically important for the world’s nations to move from political commitments to real action in the water.  We hope you will follow along and help support our efforts.