In Dead Water

development, little doubt now remains that trawling practices in very many places are quite unsustainable (Callaway et al ., 2007; Davies et al ., 2007). In the light of the impact which bottom trawling has on the marine fauna, ecosystems and biodiversity, more than 1,400 scientists and marine experts have signed a petition. Interna- tional policy and decision makers started to address this issue in 2003/4, and the 58th session of the United Nations General Assembly considered proposals for a moratorium on bottom trawling and called for urgent consideration of ways to inte- grate and improve, on a scientific basis, the management of risks to the marine biodiversity of seamounts, cold water coral reefs and certain other underwater features. However, without marine protected areas and appropriate en- forcement, especially in the deeper waters and the high seas, these damaging practices are continuing. Without increased regulation, governance, enforcement and surveillance on the high seas and on the continental shelves in many regions, unsustainable and damaging fishing practices will continue. Currently, there is virtually no protection of the vulnerable marine ecosystems and biodiversity occurring on continen- tal shelves. Indeed, in most regions, marine protected areas (MPAs) are non-existent, in others they only amount to less than 1% of the marine area. Targets have been set for setting up MPA networks and systems, however, it is apparent that under the current rate of establishment, the CBD’s target and the WPC (World Park Congress) target will not be met (Wood et al . in press). Several countries have started some restrictions on bottom trawling in their national waters, but bottom trawling in areas beyond national jurisdiction is mostly unregulated. A few re- gional fisheries management organisations, such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), have (temporar- ily) closed some high risk areas beyond national jurisdiction to bottom fishing in order to protect vulnerable ecosystems. However, these measures apply only to member states (i.e. not to foreign fishing fleets) and cannot be properly controlled and enforced, which seriously weakens their effectiveness. There are now discussions ongoing with several bodies including the FAO on developing better international guidelines for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas, but urgent action is needed.

It is important, however, to realize that many types of fishing gear other than trawling may be severely damaging as well. A major challenge is the fact that very modest levels of trawl- ing may increase productivity of certain genera, and localized small-scale trawling practices will likely have limited impact. Much debate has taken place on fisheries and particularly bottom trawling, and many reviews have pointed to the ef- fect that the practice sometimes may be sustainable in some regions. However, given the capacity of most of the world’s fishing fleet, of growing pollution, climate change and coastal


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