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Turning the Tide on Deep Sea Destruction (VIDEO)

Turning the Tide on Deep Sea Destruction (VIDEO)

 

The deep sea is an extreme and unforgiving environment, so it may be surprising to learn that it is home to an estimated 10 million distinct species, rivaling the biodiversity of some of the world’s richest tropical rainforests.

This dark region begins around 200 meters (218 yards) below the surface of the ocean, where most light cannot penetrate, and ends at the bottom of the ocean, at an average depth of nearly 4.3 kilometers (2.6 miles). Coral reefs up to 8,500 years in age, sharks and fish unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs, and many organisms that have yet to be documented by science thrive in these depths.

But for all the wonders of the deep, these ecosystems are under serious threat. This is especially true for those that are found in the international waters of the high seas, beyond any country’s national jurisdiction. Recent advances in technology, including stronger engines, bigger nets, advanced navigational tools and fish-finding electronics, have enabled fishing vessels to travel further and cast their nets deeper than ever before, scouring the deep sea’s undiscovered mountain peaks, canyons and seabed. As a result, fleets roam the high seas of the world’s oceans, destroying seascapes that have taken millennia to form in search of a few types of fish to sell at restaurants across Europe, Japan and North America. But deep-sea fishing is expensive, and in many instances, taxpayer money in the form of subsidies props up this industry.

To truly convey what’s at stake in these unique deep-sea ecosystems, the Pew Environment Group recently put together a short video featuring many visually-stunning images of deep-sea life, as well as the barren aftermath left by high-seas bottom trawlers that have dragged their heavy nets and weights across the ocean floor. Scientists attest that this fishing method is the single most destructive fishing activity currently occurring on the high seas.

Since 2004, the international community, through the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly, has called on fishing countries and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to urgently act to protect deep-sea life. Beginning in 2006, U.N. resolutions that outlined a plan to safeguard this fragile biodiversity passed. Many governments supported an outright moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling, but countries operating deep-sea vessels instead promised to take action to make fisheries more sustainable and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. Ultimately, they agreed to conduct a formal assessment after a few years to determine how well the resolutions had been implemented.

From September 15-16, the United Nations held a workshop as part of its formal review of deep-sea conservation. It was there that fishing countries and RFMOs highlighted the steps they had taken to comply with the resolutions. At the U.N. meeting, nongovernmental organizations pointed out the significant gaps in the resolutions’ implementation, particularly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. World-renowned scientists also maintained that urgent action was still needed to protect these vulnerable ecosystems. Perhaps, the lone bright spot in the assessment was recognition of the successful adoption of several measures to safeguard one of the harshest ocean areas in the world—Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.

Hopefully, the U.N. delegates listened closely to the scientists who made their concerns clear: the cumulative impacts of continued bottom fishing on these incredibly sensitive deep-sea systems are having devastating effects.

The U.N. will meet again on November 11 to decide on next steps and work towards shaping another deep-sea conservation resolution to submit to the General Assembly. In the meantime, the clock is ticking for high-seas fishing countries to fully comply with measures to which they have already agreed. While discussions on how to safeguard these vulnerable marine ecosystems have been going on for nearly ten years, action is needed to protect the deep sea now.

 

Related Stories:

Global Celebrities Join the Fight to Ban Shark Finning

Slaughtering Seals As a Precautionary Approach

Overfishing: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

 

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35 comments

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3:24PM PDT on Oct 5, 2011

Farmed fish is not the solution: it causes its own form of pollution and threatens native and wild species in a variety of ways, including disease and aggression (fish that are farmed in large nets are not properly socialized and when they escape they terrorize the native species in the area). The solution is organic and vegetarian and, the only true solution, reducing the human population.

4:09AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Jim G, nice thought but why don't we try to be more green, use less and be less wasteful instead?

4:08AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

buy farm fishes! at a fish market, i heard overheard a lady asking if the fish is wild or farmed. she obviously had a preference for wild fishes. people need to know more that fishing is really harmful to the environment. farming is the solution!

12:04AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

I wish we could just figure out how to do away with money, enable appropriate technology on a wide scale now, and learn to live in harmony with these amazing beings. I do believe we can do it - but it will take great strides and courage.

11:02PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

these things have been going on for years. maybe now people will listen.

7:30PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

It is really sad that these human elements (idiots) are trying so hard to end an universe so beautiful.

6:24PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

awful

4:41PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Greenpeace has campaigned against bottom trawling for years. I hope that this destruction will finally end soon.

3:45PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Jamie C. I'd rather put it (radioactive waste) in your back yard. Seriously though. We are definitely running out of places to dump hazardous waste. Maybe that's what the moon is for? Funny how people seem to fear space travel, or feel that a space agency is too much of an investment. But it is really the answer to all of our problems. There are endless resources in space. And some of the 'space' is right in our back yard. Privatization of space technology would help our economy too. It may be a high initial investment, but I think the oil companies in combination with the rest of the fortune five hundred companies probably have more than enough money and resources to make significant progress in that area.

3:35PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

the issue is greed........
Also the issue is fear......

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