According to Greenpeace Ocean's campaign, The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), whose members include Canada, the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Russia and the US, has announced plans to regulate the activities of its fleets in line with a 2006 United Nations resolution. The resolution calls for urgent action to protect deep-sea corals and other vulnerable ecosystems from the impacts of bottom trawling on the high seas. The UN originally set a deadline for all regional fisheries treaty organizations to fully implement its plans by December 2008.
Greenpeace action on bottom trawling, Halifax, Canada. Photo: flickr.com/freeflo
"NAFO, whose members have the largest fleet of bottom trawlers in the world, is the first to start complying. It has agreed that all high seas bottom fishing within its areas will be subject to impact assessments by the end of 2008, and that fishing areas should be closed or fisheries prohibited where damage to corals, sponges and other deep sea species cannot be prevented. NAFO has set itself an ambitious work schedule over the next several months to complete the assessments and begin identifying areas on the high seas that require protection."
One organisation who has been highly committed to protecting marine wildlife around the world is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. For the last 30 years the Sea Shepherd has focussed on enforcing the conservation laws that is supposed to protect marine wildlife. With the announcement of this new legislation being drawn up, the question still stands: how will the NAFO be enforcing the new legsilation?
A similar situation exists with the current legislation around whale hunting. According to Dan, an activist from the UK who joined the Sea Shepherd crew a couple of month ago, a lot more needs to be done besides drawing up new legislation: "There are numerous laws which are protecting the whales, I'm not an expert on all of them, but there is the Convention International Trade In Endangered Species, the UN World Charter for Nature, which is actually empoweres [ordinary] people to enforce these laws, the International Whalings Commission Moratorium on Commercial Whaling, and the Antarctic Treaty protects whales. So they are really blatently breaking a whole bunch of laws. So it is a case of law enforcement. [The legislation] is only worth as much as the piece of paper its written on.. These treaties should either not be agreed on or be enforced." Some would say that the new legislation being drawn up by the NAFO to regulate bottom trawling will have little impact unless sufficient resources are put aside to enforce it.
Bottom trawling, possibly the most destructive fishing method yet devised by man, is a process, which involves dragging nets weight down by metal girders across the seabed, is notorious for its wastefulness. Besides legitimate target species such as cod, plaice and sole, vast quantities of corals, sponges and other deep sea creatures are destroyed as bycatch.