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Isabel García Tejerina: Don’t let the deep sea be decimated

Isabel García Tejerina: Don’t let the deep sea be decimated


Why this is important

Some of the most exceptional and least well known ecosystems, habitats, and species on our planet are found at the bottom of the sea, hundreds of metres deep. Amazing species live here, such as corals that live for more than one thousand years, and incredible deep-sea sharks that take decades before they reproduce. Deep-sea creatures are generally fragile and have managed to adapt to living in extreme environments.

Despite the remoteness of their location, these species are not immune to the impacts of human activities – especially deep-sea fisheries. This poorly regulated activity often destroys deep-sea ecosystems such as coral reefs and sponge beds, and overfishes deep-sea stocks to the point where they cannot recover, and collapse.

Given this situation, the European Union is in the process of reforming the current EU regulation on deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic Ocean. This is an excellent opportunity to end the destruction of deep-sea habitats and protect these tremendous reservoirs of biodiversity, in compliance with international management and conservation commitments. Spain is the main European country involved in these fisheries – accounting for half of all EU captures of deep-sea species in the region – and therefore holds a major responsibility in this process.

Ask the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Isabel García Tejerina, to support and propose measures to minimise environmental impacts on deep-sea marine ecosystems and ensure the sustainable exploitation of resources, during negotiations on the new deep-sea fishing regulation.

Will you help us? Deep-sea species and ecosystems deserve your support.

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By signing this petition, you are adding your signature to the following letter to the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Dear Minister:

In relation to the ongoing negotiations in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on the reform of the regulation on deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic, I would like to call on Spain to support and propose management measures to minimise impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and ensure the sustainable exploitations of deep-sea fisheries resources.

As a European citizen, I am deeply concerned about the weak management measures for deep-sea ecosystems and species. Twelve years after the current regulation (Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002) entered into force, it is clear that the measures it contains are completely insufficient to guarantee the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems from the impacts of fishing gear. Similarly, scientific evidence indicates that the majority of EU deep-sea fish stocks are fished at levels far higher than are sustainable, with large associated by-catch of non-commercial species that are eventually discarded.

This situation does not reflect the management objectives reflected in various EU regulations or in other international commitments, such as those adopted by EU Member States in the United Nations General Assembly (i.e., Resolutions 61/105 and 64/72). The situation is especially worrying given the recognised vulnerability of deep-sea species.

Spain, as the leading European country in deep-sea fisheries, has the responsibility to propose management measures based on science and on international commitments to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and to fish deep-sea species in a responsible manner. In particular, I would ask you to support the following measures:

- Identify areas that contain vulnerable marine ecosystems and prevent the use of bottom fishing gear in those areas.

- Carry our environmental impact assessments for fishing activities in new and current fishing areas.

- Progressively phase out the use of destructive, non-selective fishing gears, particularly deep sea bottom trawls and bottom-set gillnets.

- Set fishing opportunities in strict accordance with scientific advice, while considering the sustainability of all captures species.

- Implement measures to minimise by-catch, with special attention to most vulnerable species.

I thank you in advance for your consideration, and hope that the negotiations will be productive. Deep-sea species and ecosystems deserve it.

Posted April 3, 2014
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