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Europe Protects Deep Sea Species

October 28, 2008

The European Union is granting more protection to exotic deepwater fish, some of which can live up to 150 years.

Fisheries ministers agreed to major quota cuts for the next two years.

Exotic fish like forkbeard, black scabbardfish, greater silver smelt and roundnose grenadier grow and reproduce far more slowly than fish in shallower waters.

These deep sea species have become an attractive catch as trawlers switch from their regular fishing grounds due to the depletion of mainstay commercial fish such as cod and hake.

The European Commission, an entity that monitors fishing quotas and regulations for the bloc’s 27 member countries, wanted 2009 catch reductions to range up to 50 percent from this year, followed by cuts of up to 100 percent in 2010.

After 2010, EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg announced there would be no fishing at all for deep-sea sharks.

He said allowance was granted since these fish were often scooped up as a by-catch with other species, and then thrown back into the sea when they did not survive.

“We managed to secure a meaningful agreement which will considerably reduce fishing pressure on these vulnerable stocks, while at the same time trying to keep discards to the lowest possible level,” Borg said.

“For deep-sea sharks, we have agreed to reduce the TAC (total allowable catch) to zero while providing an allowance of 10 percent to cover inevitable by-catch and avoid discards.”

He announced that fishing for orange roughly, one of the most valuable and vulnerable deep-sea species, would also end from 2010.

France, Spain and Portugal have the most developed deep-sea fishing industries in the EU, followed by Britain and Ireland.

“As a stock, you have to be pretty careful otherwise you end up doing a lot of damage (to deep-sea fish). This is about ensuring proper conservation,” one EU diplomat told reporters.

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