Deep-sea fish 'plundered' to extinction by trawling

A A A

Species including tuna and the orange roughy are among those under threat by illegal fishing and the notorious practice of bottom-trawling, by which heavy rollers are dragged over the ocean floor, trapping fish and mammals and destroying entire ecosystems.

The most imperilled species are within international waters, which account for more than half the world's surface. Many governments are ignoring controls on them and allowing pirate fishing vessels to operate unchecked, said Simon Cripps of WWF's marine programme.

Countries such as Australia, Britain and Canada should be taking more responsibility, setting examples and putting pressure on other states, he said.

The WWF report, co-written with the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, was released before a meeting next week in New York in which governments will review the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the legal framework for managing fish populations in the high seas.

The environmental devastation being caused by a global fishing industry whose catch has risen from 18 million tons to 95 million tons over the past half-century, has left 25 per cent of commercial species over-exploited and depleted, compared with 10 per cent in the mid-1970s, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The WWF, based in Switzerland, found that some of the regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), whose task it is to ensure waters are not overfished, lacked the "political will and commercial motivation" to enforce fishing limits.

Some regional agreements, such as the Antarctic Convention, do protect fish stocks, concluded the WWF. But some signatories to a North Atlantic agreement are ignoring fishing quotas altogether.

Canada, for example, is committed to protecting stocks in its own national waters but allows over-fishing on the Grand Banks, off its east coast, because they fall within international waters where vessels from other nations are at work. This is causing huge declines in cod stocks, devastating the income of coastal communities.

Some countries seem oblivious to the environmental damage being caused. The coastal states of East Africa are not part of their own region's RFMO - the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission - despite catching large amounts of tuna. Several East African states are being used as trans-shipment ports for illegally-caught toothfish, but do not seem aware of the illegality.

Graphic evidence of the consequences of such systemic failures arrived from Rome yesterday where, at the start of the commercial fishing season for the Mediterranean bluefin tuna, the Tuna Trap Producers Association (TTPA) said that their industry was on the verge of collapse.

Catches by the traditional tuna-trap fishermen in southern Spain are down 80 per cent on this time last year, according to the TTPA.

The WWF said the root of this crisis lay with one of the RFMOs whose role is examined in the report - the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which was allowing an increase in the Mediterranean tuna farming capacity, taking the total authorised capacity to 51,012 tons, some 20,000 tons higher than a previously imposed limit.

The report's authors called on the UN to review fishing on the high seas, and strengthen the resolve of RFMOs to deal with states that flout agreements.

"It's got to stop, we've got to do it quickly," Mr Cripps said. "There is hope, if we can get management put in place."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This children's clothing compan...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Carpenter / Joiner

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading manufacturer...

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones