On 6 October the European Commission published the proposal for fishing opportunities for deep sea fish stocks in 2011 and 2012. It proposes that there be no increases in quotas until “positive trends” in stock levels have been identified. However, environmental organisations have attacked the proposal for not going far enough to protect deep sea stocks from overfishing.
While for some stocks Total Allowable Catches (TACs) remain unchanged, for other stocks reductions are proposed, but limited to a maximum decrease of 15% per year. The Commission also proposes phasing out fishing for deep sea sharks and orange roughy.
The proposal raises concerns about the negative impact of deep sea trawling on the marine ecosystem, suggesting that the fishing sector should be more involved in developing measures, such as fishing effort limitations or more selective gear.
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), an alliance of over 60 organisations, heavily criticised the proposal in a press release, stating that « Allowances for deep-sea bottom fishing proposed today by the European Commission will lead to continued depletion and destruction of Northeast Atlantic fish stocks”. The alliance argues that all the species are outside safe biological limits and that the proposal contradicts a UN General Assembly resolution calling for nations to sustainably managed deep sea fisheries.
The biannual regulation covers deep sea fish commercially targeted in EU waters and the international waters of the North East Atlantic, such as orange roughy, deep sea sharks and roundnose grenadier. Deep sea species are generally slow growing and long lived, making them particularly vulnerable to fishing. Scientific knowledge and information on deep sea stocks is also lacking, making stock assessments difficult.
EU Fisheries Ministers are expected to take the final decision deep sea fishing limits at their meeting on 29-30 November.