Man will 'wipe out' rare creatures of the deep

A A A

The deep ocean is one of the world's last great wildernesses. But not for long. Two kilometres below the surface, scores of rare and exotic species are being wiped out at a dramatic rate.

These unique species include the goblin shark which boasts a unicorn-like horn, prickly sharks with humped backs and glowing eyes, vast single-celled organisms as large as footballs and tripod fish that stand on their fins.

In a letter passed to The Independent on Sunday, Britain's leading marine scientists have warned these species face extinction because of the global growth in deep-sea trawlers fishing for edible species such as the orange roughy, hoki and round-nosed grenadier.

The damage is indiscriminate, they warned. The vast nets, which can reach down for 2km, pull up thousands of tonnes of fish each year, but most are thrown back into the sea, dead.

Held down by rows of steel rollers weighing up to 200kg each, those nets are meanwhile devastating the ancient coral beds and sea mounts which are the home to the deep sea's marine life by scraping the sea bed clean. Some corals, such as the seafan, can be 1,000 years old. Other sea bed species being destroyed include fields of glass sponges with skeletons like fibreglass wool, and flytrap anemones that close their tentacled mouths around their prey like a Venus flytrap.

Last week, more than 50 of Britain's leading marine scientists and ecologists, including the president of the Royal Society, Lord May, have urged the Government to call for a global ban on the industry at the UN.

Their unprecedented demand follows worrying evidence that the deep sea is being "irreparably destroyed" by the industry. The UK, they said, should also use its presidency of the European Union to persuade the rest of the EU to support its moves for a worldwide moratorium.

The scientists' greatest fear, said Professor Callum Roberts, a leading government adviser on marine conservation, is that the damage could be permanent. Even if deep-sea trawling were banned now, it would take decades to recover.

Professor Roberts, from York University, said many of these species have very long lifecycles and rarely reproduce, which means that a major trawling expedition can wipe out an entire generation of deep sea fish in that area. Some rockfish species can live to 200 years old, while orange roughy live to 150.

"The pace of life is glacial in the deep sea, so we simply can't extract very much life at any one time," said Professor Roberts. "A sustainable rate of removal is 1 to 2 per cent in any one year, but trawlers fish at a far higher rate than that. It means that they extract everything they find."

UNDER THREAT

BLUE LING: In the north Atlantic, trawlers are hunting down surviving blue ling populations.

ORANGE ROUGHY: Fished since the 1970s, stocks in north Atlantic and Pacific have fallen by 75 per cent.

PRICKLY SHARK: Rarely eaten, this slow species is trawled up in the Pacific then thrown away, dead.

ROUNDNOSE GRENADIER: Can live to 70 or more, and form large Atlantic shoals 900m deep. Over-fished.

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

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas