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 Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME)s 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 Marine Protected Area (MPA) benefit expectation, monitoring, management settling precedents and cross linkage with mining.