Atlantic deep-sea fish controls delayed

NGOs "extremely disappointed" by international commission's failure to take immediate action

The body in charge of controlling fisheries in the north-east Atlantic last week delayed decisions on protecting deep-water fish species, thought to be under increasing threat as conventional fish stocks are depleted. Delegates to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) agreed to return to the issue next March. European environmental groups said they were "extremely disappointed" by the lack of progress, arguing that it was necessary to cut fishing effort immediately.

NEAFC sets quotas for fisheries operating within the north-east Atlantic, including not only an overall envelope for EU countries but also for other member states, which include Norway, Iceland, Poland and Russia. Both the NEAFC and the European Commission have requested and received advice on deep-water species this year from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

In its report to the Commission, ICES said that "there have been many warnings that the development of deep-sea fisheries is not sustainable and recommendations to immediately reduce the fishery on deep-sea stocks have been numerous". It added that "the immediate threat is that the stocks may be fished down before the status of the stocks can be assessed". ICES suggested a list of policy responses, including trawling bans, reductions in catches and the use of satellite tracking and observers placed on board deep-water vessels to ensure that regulations are followed.

Follow Up:
North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, tel: +44 20 76 31 00 16; ICES, tel: +45 33 15 42 25; ICES advice to NEAFC; ICES advice to European Commission.

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