Deep-sea fishing and driftnets banned in the Mediterranean
3 March 2005, CIESM News

A few days ago in Rome, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) -- the regional regulatory body on fishery management in the Mediterranean Sea -- adopted a measure to ban trawling below 1000 meters. GFCM also banned driftnets, making the whole Mediterranean driftnet free. Unless objections from Member Countries arise, both bans will come into force in four months.

"This is great day for conservation and we congratulate GFCM for this move, said Dr Frederic Briand, Director General of CIESM. Our Commission is extremely pleased as both measures reflect a strong consensus of our scientific community. As coastal, shallower waters are overfished, trawlers are tempted to go deeper and deeper. The deep-sea trawling ban will protect unique deep-sea habitats such as seamounts, submarine canyons, cold-water corals, hypersaline brine pools, cold seeps, where thousands of new species could be discovered. In addition the ban will provide a reprieve for such valuable stocks as hake and shrimp."

CIESM took early steps towards the establishment of such strong protection measures. As early as 1999 its Board passed a formal resolution against the use of driftnets in the Mediterranean Sea. Then, in July 2003, CIESM organized an exploratory Research Workshop on the Mediterranean Deep-sea which highlighted both the biological richness and vulnerability of this vast, poorly known ecosystem. The resulting CIESM Workshop Monograph "Mare Incognitum? Exploring Mediterranean deep-sea biology" stressed the need to protect this unique world from the various assaults of man, such as traditional trawl and longline fisheries capable of reaching down to great depths, and had much influence through its large diffusion. Its scientific conclusions formed the basis of a successful Panel organized jointly with IUCN last July, during the 37th CIESM Barcelona Congress, in order to examine and recommend further conservation measures. These repeated alarm signals and pointed recommendations - originating from a unique alliance of scientists and conservation experts - were ultimately heard and led to the adoption of this deep-sea fishing ban, the first ban of the kind worldwide.