THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK IN EUROPE
ICES defines deep-sea fish as those fish located at a depth greater than 200 meters, but deep-sea fisheries are, arbitrarily, defined as those fisheries which have a depth of over 400 meters. “The term deep water (or deep sea) includes the waters below the continental shelves. That is all the water deeper than about 200 meters. ICES uses the term deepwater fisheries for those fisheries in depths greater than 400 m.” (2005 ICES advice on deepwater stocks).
A REGULATION FOR DEEP-SEA FISHERIES IN 2002: Council Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002
Despite the concerns expressed by ICES scientists as early as 1994 and 1996 about declining deep-sea fish stocks, regulation of deep-sea fisheries only began in 2003. Quotas were applied to deep-sea species on 1st January 2003, under Regulation No 2347/2002, establishing specific access requirements and associated conditions applicable to fishing for deep sea stocks.
Recognizing that deep-sea fish species are vulnerable to over-exploitation and that certain fisheries seriously damage habitats, the European Commission also set fishing quotas, which have been reduced regularly since 2003, and forced the closure of areas in which no deep-sea gear can be used. Nevertheless, deep-sea fisheries continue to be exploited outside safe biological limits.
This regulation has, therefore, failed to protect both deep-sea fauna and ecosystems from the destructive impact of deep-sea fishing vessels. Given the mixed nature of deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic and the extremely degraded status of deep-sea fish populations, it was clear to the European Commission that management of deep-sea fisheries, particularly by means of quotas (a method unsuited to mixed fisheries), was a complete failure, and that the regulation needed radical revision.
Since 2002, when the European regime of the management of deep-sea fisheries was put in place, international negotiations have not yet led to the adoption of UN resolutions (2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011). This explains why the access to deep water stocks is not regulated by any international standards for the protection of deep sea species or habitats.
OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IN JANUARY 2007
In January 2007, The European Commission published an official communication to the European Parliament and Council (COM(2007)30). It followed almost an entire decade of alarm calls from ICES scientists and concluded that:
“Many deep-sea stocks have such low productivity that sustainable levels of exploitation are probably too low to support an economically viable fishery.(…) Moreover, stock recovery times are so long that the reductions in exploitation must be regarded as permanent”
A REGULATION FOR EUROPEAN DEEP-SEA FISHERIES IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS: Council Regulation (EC) No 734/2008
In 2008, a further regulation (No 734/2008), provided for the management of European deep-sea fisheries taking place outside of Community waters. It took inspiration from UN law, which was much more restrictive than the 2002 European Regulation.
Article 6 of Council Regulation (EC) No 734/2008 stipulates that:
“In the areas [in the High Seas] where no proper scientific assessment has been carried out and made available, the use of bottom gears shall be prohibited.”
Click here to see a table comparing the two main regulations concerning management measures which aim to make deep sea fishing sustainable.
The 2002 access regime for deep-sea fisheries is currently under decennial reform. The European Commission seems determined to ban deep-sea fishing in Europe in the future.
2009 : The Lisbon Treaty
Since the Lisbon treaty came into force, on the 1st December 2009, the decision making process and adoption of legislation has been divided between the Council of ministers and the European Parliament. Legislation is drafted by the European Commission.
JULY 2012: A PROPOSAL FOR A REGULATION ON EUROPEAN DEEP-SEA FISHERIES, BANNING DEEP-SEA TRAWLING AND GILLNETS
On 19 July 2012, the European Commission announced the adoption of a proposed regulation defining deep-sea fisheries management rules for the next ten years.
The text proposes historic measures: an end to deep-sea trawling within two years and a ban on bottom-set gillnet fishing. These measures would apply to all European vessels, as well as foreign vessels wishing to fish in European waters.
October 2012 : TACs & quotas for deep-sea species
The European Commission has published a proposal defining the opportunities for fishing for deep-sea species in 2013/14.
The NGO “Seas at Risk” commented on the Commissions proposal here.
ICES have, alongside this, posted a warning in October 2012 concerning deep-sea sharks to remind everyone that the data collected to evaluate the stock of such species is insufficient.
Mars 2013: The European Parliament debates the Commission’s proposals for reforming EU deep-sea fishing regulations
March the 7th 2013: The Greek MEP Kriston Arsenis (Socialist Party) released his report on the Commission’s proposal. The text will be debated on the 20th march at the European Fisheries Commission.
- ICES, 2004. “Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management and Advisory Committee on Ecosystems”. 2004. ICES Advice, vol. 1, no 2.
- ICES, 2006a. “Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, Advisory Committee on the Marine Environment and Advisory Committee on Ecosystems”. ICES AVIS DU CIEM, Book 9, pp 149-165.
- DEEPFISHMAN, Management And Monitoring Of Deep-sea Fisheries And Stocks. Overview of economic management measures and impacts for selected case studies. 30 September 2010.