Key Ideas

  • Deep-sea fisheries developed well in advance of scientific knowledge.
  • Today, deep-sea fisheries operate blindly – that is, without the basic knowledge that is indispensable for stock management (biological parameters of species).
  • Despite this, their development (exploratory campaigns to identify new fishing zones) has often been funded by public authorities, through international research institutes (as is the case in France).

Science’s Silence

During the 1980s, most people, including scientists, firmly believed that the deep sea was devoid of life. Discoveries of huge quantities of orange roughy on seamounts by New Zealand fishermen and Australian fishermen at the beginning of the 1980s surprised deep-sea biologists, who did not know that such abundant stocks existed, and were almost unaware that these species existed at all. A decade earlier, the 900 000 tons of pelagic armorhead (Pseudopentaceros wheeleri) caught by Soviet and Japanese trawlers on North-Pacific seamounts had gone almost unnoticed. Western fisheries scientists and deep-sea biologists had failed to anticipate the scale of deep-sea fisheries. It was in this context that science began to fall massively behind the exploitation methods used in industrial deep-sea fisheries.

Today, over two decades worth of scientific studies, as well as the schema of serial stock collapse that applies to deep-sea fish and the huge ecological impact of these fisheries, have made deep-sea fishing a hot topic in scientific, political and diplomatic current affairs.

Tony Koslow, The Silent Deep, The Discovery, Ecology, and Conservation of the Deep Sea. The University of Chicago Press, Published April 2007.

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