Orange Roughy Fishery. Image courtesy of Malcolm Clark, NIWA, NZ

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.

Current Activities:

  • We released a Policy Brief based on our Review of Impact Assessments for Deep-Sea Fisheries on the High Seas, offering recommendations for UN General Assembly negotiators.
  • Our new Review of Impact Assessments for Deep-Sea Fisheries on the High Seas was well-received at the UN Bottom Fishing Workshop held in August of 2022, with many delegates recognizing its importance to future policy. You can read our participation report from the Workshop here.
  • In August of 2022, we released a major Review of Impact Assessments for Deep-Sea Fisheries on the High Seas.
  • Implementation of further WG sub-groups to address key themes:
    • Demersal Fisheries and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems – 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)
    • 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. Watch Webinar 6 in the IUCN/DOSI series on the BBNJ treaty – Fishing in the Twilight Zone.
    • Climate change – Deep-sea fish species and their habitats as carbon sinks.
  • 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”
  • Answering important questions: Can DOSI facilitate Data Poor programs via RFMOs?
  • Informing DOSI community and beyond on deep-sea fisheries issues

Past Activities (in reverse chronological order):

  • 13 September 2021 – Demersal Fisheries and VMEs sub-group lead Amy Baco-Taylor presented at the 16th DSBS a keynote talk based on the work of the WG on “A Community Consensus on Designating Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems from Imagery”
  • 21-23 October 2020: DOSI Deep-Sea Workshop for Pacific Islands States. ‘The Deep Sea, Humans, and Management’ was due to be held in Suva, Fiji, but, owing to the pandemic, was instead held remotely in a more concise form. Between 30 and 60 people joined per day. All lectures are publicly available HERE; the most relevant talks on deep-sea fisheries by Jeffrey Drazen and Malcolm Clark can be found below: