The European Parliament Fisheries Committee could in the next days quite irresponsibly kill proposed legislation to phase out the use of deep-sea bottom trawls and other destructive fishing gear in the Northeast Atlantic.
Predictably, many of the committee’s 25 members causing the most problem represent districts with deep-sea fishing interests, according to Bloom’s Claire Nouvian and an Oc. 2 New York Times Op-ed written by marine scientists Les Watling and Giles Boeuf.
According to scientists, 90 percent of the ocean is below 200 meters but not much is known about life there, expect that it is home to countless species, many of them as yet undocumented. Research covers only about 1 percent of the vast area.
As fisheries have collapsed in shallow waters, the industry has looked to the deep for new species and have found only a few there that can be sold for human consumption or processed for fish meal. Yet trawls with gear heavy enough to reach 2,000 meters below the ocean’s surface have scooped up everything in their path, palatable or not, and thus reduced fish biomass by 80 percent over an area about the size of Britain.
According to the Op-Ed, in 2011, vessels from eight EU countries landed 15,000 metric tons of four species of marketable deep-sea fish, which represents only 0.4 percent of Europe’s fish haul. Because of the fragile and adverse conditions in the deepest areas of our oceans, the fish are slow reproducers so this sort of fishing causes irreparable harm.
There exist many fragile species in the deep that are simply swept up or smashed by the trawl gear, which can leave the bottom or mid-areas of the ocean completely bereft of life. A declaration by 300 global scientists has urged that this type of destructive fishing be eliminated from the deep sea – now!
The deep sea battle is just part of the ocean tragedy, described well in the latest audit by an international team of marine scientists from the International Programmed on the State of the Ocean (IPSO). Released earlier this month, the report showed that the world’s oceans and marine life face unprecedented threats from industrial pollution, global warming and rampant overfishing.
The IPSO paper calls for “urgent remedies” because the “rate, speed, and impacts of change in the global ocean are greater, faster and more imminent than previously believed.”
The battle over deep sea trawling then is over “a small fishing area that produces a diminishing number of fish for a handful of companies , who despite massive subsidies from the EU and their own states are not profitable – all the while destroying countless organisms that represent the library of life on Earth,” according to the Op-Ed
Clearly, Trawling should be eliminated from the depths of the Northeast Atlantic. Yet legislators, backed by industry, are staging an irresponsible fight in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament that is against all of our interests and the real tragedy is that they could win.