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Friday, 20 July 2012

Commission calls for ban of destructive deep-sea fishing in the Northeast Atlantic

*Brussels, 19 July 2012 ˆ *We are thrilled and welcomed a plan presented by the
European Commission today to ban some of the most environmentally damaging
fishing practices, under a review of EU rules governing deep-sea fishing in
the Northeast and Central Atlantic. The Commission wants to phase out
licences for deep-sea trawling and gillnet fishing in the area over the
next two years, acting on a long-standing pledge request by the United
Nations to end destructive fishing in some of the world's most sensitive
and rich ecosystems [1].

*Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: **„Deep-sea
bottom trawling and gillnet fishing rank among the most destructive,
fuel-intensive and subsidy-dependent fishing activities. A relatively small
number of boats have devastated some of the world‚s most fragile and rich
ecosystems, with European taxpayers footing the bill.‰*

Gillnet fishing commonly involves using static or drifting nets with a mesh
size (or holes) narrow enough to trap fish. Deep-sea trawling involves the
destructive dragging of large, heavy nets across the seafloor. Scientists
have identified extensive damage from trawling at 200-1400 metres in depth
along the Atlantic shelf off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and Norway
[2]. Most deep-sea stocks exploited by EU fleets in the Northeast Atlantic
are seriously depleted, according to EU assessments. Bottom trawling also
has one of the highest rates of bycatch of non-target species in the
European fleet, with up to half of what is caught being discarded.

A deep-sea trawler typically burns thousands of litres of fuel per day. A
fuel tax exemption for European fishermen, coupled with EU subsidies for
the modernisation and construction of vessels, have underpinned an
otherwise economically unviable fishery. Greenpeace recently estimated that
the Spanish deep-sea fleet received at least •142 million in subsidies from
1996 to 2010 [3]. The fleet consists of slightly more than 100 vessels,
giving each vessel on average around •90,000 in direct subsidies per year
during that period. So taxpayers are paying almost entirely for the running
of these vessels, then paying again at the fish counter.

Spain, France and Portugal take almost 90 percent of the EU's deep-sea
catch (by weight), but only France and Spain focus on the destructive
practice of bottom trawling. The two countries expanded into deep-sea
fishing in the 70s and 80s, building and modernising their fleet with EU
subsidies, even as scientists began to warn against overfishing.

*Richartz added:* *„This destructive fishing fleet should never have been
built in the first place. Destructive fishing methods like deep-sea fishing
should be the first to be scrapped as the EU reforms its fishing rules.‰*

The deep sea begins around 400 meters below the surface, where sunlight
does not penetrate. It is one of the planet‚s largest reservoirs of life,
home to fragile and slow-growing coral and sponge forests and long-living
species ˆ some living coral are 8,500 years old. These ecosystems perform
ecological processes that are vital to the functioning of the world‚s
oceans and our climate.


*Notes for editors:*
[1] In 2006, the United Nations called on states to take immediate action
to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems from destructive fishing
practices, such as deep-sea bottom trawling, adding that it would be
necessary to cease destructive fishing activities where vulnerable
ecosystems exist (UNGA Resolution 61/105). It later repeated and further
specified its call in 2009 (UNGA Resolution 64/72)
[2] ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, reports
that „photographic and acoustic surveys have also revealed trawl marks on
coral beds between 200-1400m‰, summarising research of Rogers 1999; Fosså
et al. 2000, 2002; Roberts et al. 2000; Bett et al. 2001; Grehan et al. in
press. See the report 2005 of ICES Working Group on Deep-water Ecology
[3] Greenpeace (2011) Ocean Inquirer ˆ Issue 2: Until the very last fish.
The absurd model of deep-sea

Saskia Richartz ˆ Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director:  +32 (0)495
290028, saskia.richartz@greenpeace.org
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 2741911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

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