September 18, 2008

NAFO Under Pressure to Meet Marine Protection Obligations

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 18, 2008) - The annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) begins next week in Vigo, Spain, the most important port for Spain's high seas fishing fleet.

The major challenge facing NAFO at the meeting next week is to deliver on the commitment NAFO made in May 2008 to protect cold- water corals and other deep-sea ecosystems from the destructive impacts of bottom trawl fishing in time to meet the deadline set by the United Nations General Assembly.

In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) agreed to a resolution with clear requirements for NAFO and other fisheries management organizations to protect deep-sea ecosystems from bottom trawling by 31 December 2008, or to prohibit high seas bottom fishing.

"December 2008 is the deadline which NAFO needs to meet to deliver on the promise made by high seas fishing nations to protect deep-sea ecosystems in international waters" said Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.

"NAFO has made real progress over the past year, in developing a framework to address the requirements of the UN GA resolution, but real regulations must be agreed in Vigo next week. Sustainable fisheries advocates and marine conservationists will be watching NAFO over the coming week, as decisions made will impact the future of the North Atlantic," says Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre of Canada.

"There are expectations that NAFO will agree to regulations to prevent fishing on vulnerable marine areas, and increase the number of areas closed to bottom fishing - areas such as seamounts and concentrations of cold-water corals."

If NAFO and other high seas fisheries management organizations cannot successfully protect deep-sea corals and other sensitive areas from bottom trawlingthe UN General Assembly may well call for a high seas moratorium in 2009.

In addition to pressure from international agreements, the recent election campaign announcement by the Canadian Liberal Party for a protected area on the Grand Banks indicates a willingness to move forward in Canadian waters to protect unique and vulnerable ecosystems. Conservation groups are also calling for a reduction in cod bycatch in existing fisheries as well as a reduction in the catches of the endangered porbeagle shark which continues to be targeted in NAFO waters.

All contacts will be attending the NAFO Annual Meeting, September 22-26, Vigo, Spain

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