The Issue: Standing stocks and production of many biological resources in the more easily accessible areas of the ocean (above 200 meters) have decreased in the last half-century due to overharvesting and cumulative habitat degradation. In an effort to find more exploitable resources, fisheries have extended into deep-ocean habitats, often beyond national jurisdiction. Advances in technology have enabled increasing access to deep-ocean fish populations, often before adequate science-based management plans are considered or implemented. The effects in some cases have been catastrophic (e.g., orange roughy) . In addition, deep-ocean fisheries have severely impacted seamount and cold-water coral habitats (see Policy Brief Deep-Sea Fundamentals).
The working group: This group will coordinate planning across multiple management regimes, and promote a precautionary approach to deep-ocean management implemented via international cooperation, which is critically needed as the demand for deep-ocean biological resources increases. Key questions to be addressed include recovery from disturbance, mismatch between scale of studies and impacts, whether one set of VMEs can be applied across biomes, identification of trends and knowledge gaps in deep-sea fisheries and stocks, differentiating between natural variability and human impacts, managing MPA benefit expectation, monitoring, management settling precedents and cross linkage with mining.
- Further reviews and input to RFMOs and UN General Assembly (UNGA) on conducting EIAs, identifying vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and other issues related to the implementation of UNGA deep-sea fisheries resolutions in the lead up to 2020 – the year of the next UNGA review of deep-ocean fisheries
- Adapt UNGA/RFMO approach to protecting vulnerable deep seabed ecosystems to ISA regulations on deep-sea mining regulations (underway)
- Link with BBNJ/Implementing agreement negotiations – conservation of biodiversity in ABNJ in relation to deep-sea fisheries
- Support deep sea implementation of SDG 14.2 “By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans”
- Can DOSI facilitate Data Poor programs via RFMOs?
- Project underway, led by Amy Baco-Taylor (Florida State Uni) towards a Community Consensus on Designating Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems from Imagery (presented at Ocean Sciences Feb 2020)
- Implementation of new WG sub-groups to address key themes:
- Demersal Fisheries and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems – Developing criteria to designate areas of VMEs from video surveys for conservation and management purposes.
- Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for deep-sea fisheries – Produce a review of pre-existing EIAs from different RMFOS prior to the next UNGA resolution review in the autumn of 2021.
- Mesopelagic fisheries – Potentially the largest unexploited resource left in the ocean. Identify and address knowledge gaps around how exploitation would affect biodiversity, food webs, and climate change.
- Climate change – Deep-sea fish species and their habitats as carbon sinks.