European Parliament fails to promote ban of deep-sea bottom trawling

Posted on 11 December 2013    
A bottom trawler scrapes the ocean floor destroying the marine habitat
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF
Brussels, Belgium. WWF is disappointed that the European Parliament voted against the phase-out of destructive deep-sea bottom trawling (below 600 metres) in European waters and high seas of the North-East Atlantic.

“Sustainable fisheries must also include the deep-sea: Bottom trawling has a huge impact on vulnerable species and deep sea habitats. It devastates cold water coral reefs, deep-water sponge formations, and seamount ecosystems.” said WWF marine expert Stephan Lutter.“ The draft deep-sea regulation is now awaiting further discussion and decision making in the Fisheries Ministers Council of the EU.

Centuries-old coral reefs are destroyed within a few minutes when huge bottom trawls fishing for redfish and orange roughy are dragged over a deep-water seamount. This fishing practice also destroys the habitat of endangered deep-sea sharks and hundreds of invertebrate species. In addition, deep-sea fish are especially exposed to overfishing due to their slow growth and low fertility. The current regulation for deep-sea fisheries will not allow stocks to recover from the constant fishing pressure. The EU has been trying to manage deep-sea fisheries, including closing certain areas, but did not succeed so far.

“The bycatch rates of deep-sea fisheries are alarmingly high, up to 100 species are caught at the same time with the targeted species, because the huge nets swallow and smash everything that is alive,” criticized Stephan Lutter.

The EU has one of the largest deep-sea fleets in the world operating in European waters and the high seas. The deep-sea fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic are heavily exploited and the destructive bottom trawl nets are among the most common fishing methods of the European deep- sea fleet. Many of these environmentally damaging fisheries operate on the continental slopes and seamounts of the North-East Atlantic at depths between 200 and 1000 metres. This is right where the ecologically valuable cold-water reefs and other vulnerable marine ecosystems habitats such as deep sea sponge formations can be found.

Note: By 18 December 2013, 20 Members of the European Parliament had corrected their vote resulting in a majority of 343 to 330 in favour of the deep sea trawling ban and rejecting the fisheries committee’s proposal. While the formal outcome of the plenary vote remains unchanged, this is an important political signal for further negotiations at the Fisheries Ministers Council.

A bottom trawler scrapes the ocean floor destroying the marine habitat
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required