International agreement on protecting deep-sea species and habitats
9 September 2008
New Zealand played a key role in achieving the successful agreement of guidelines on limiting the impact of deep water fishing on fragile fisheries and habitats, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.
Sixty nine countries, including New Zealand, participated in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisations two-year negotiation process leading up to the acceptance of the guidelines last week. The successful negotiations were chaired by New Zealand Fisheries Ministry international manager Jane Willing.
She said the agreement lays out guidelines that fishing nations should use when operating in high-seas areas outside of the national waters, where many deep sea fisheries are located.
“As the agreement states, deep-sea areas need to be rigorously managed to identify and protect vulnerable ecosystems.”
The agreement provides a range of guidance on the sustainable use of deep sea fisheries, which includes fishing nations assessing fishing by their fleets to determine its impact. Deep sea fishing should cease in areas where significant adverse impact on vulnerable ecosystems is taking place. Conservation and management measures should be put in place to achieve the sustainable use and long-term conservation of deep sea fish stocks. The guidelines will also outline steps for improving the information on the location and status of vulnerable deep sea ecosystems.
Jim Anderton said the New Zealand delegation was to the fore of the negotiations for the agreement.
“New Zealand is one of the few states that has practical experience of managing deep seas stocks. It was with this knowledge and experience that the delegation was able to ensure the agreed guidelines were workable.
“Our delegates’ participation and influence in the agreement was considerable and showed the immense commitment we have made to the conservation of our own deep seas ecosystems.”
In April 2007, New Zealand closed 17 areas within its Exclusive Economic Zone to deep sea bottom trawling, providing protection to an area of seabed habitat equal to 1.2 million square kilometres, or an area four times the landmass of New Zealand. This is the largest single marine protection initiative anywhere in the world and accounts for 32% of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone.