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World's First Voluntary High-Sea Trawling Closures

Fishing Companies Announce World’s First Voluntary Closures to High-Seas Deepwater Trawling

Proposed Bethnic Protection Areas
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For release am 6 July 2006

Fishing Companies Announce World’s First Voluntary Closures to High-Seas Deepwater Trawling

Marine species granted eleven deepsea havens in the Indian Ocean

Wellington, New Zealand, Rome, Italy and Gland, Switzerland, 6 July 2006, (IUCN) - In a global first, four major fishing companies announced today a voluntary halt on trawling in eleven benthic-protected areas in the southern Indian Ocean. This will protect and conserve the benthic and associated fish fauna and related biodiversity in one of the largest marine protected area enclosures ever.

“By setting aside an area almost equal to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef National Park, these businesses are sending a clear signal that they want to keep fish on people’s plates for generations to come,” commented Graham Patchell, a scientist with the newly formed Southern Indian Ocean Deepwater Fishers’ Association (SIODFA), which represents four companies - Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd (Australia), Bel Ocean II Ltd (Mauritius), Sealord Group (New Zealand) and TransNamibia Fishing Pty Ltd (Namibia), the main trawling operators in this area.

Using the scientific knowledge gathered over a decade of activity in the Indian Ocean and in consultation with staff of the Fisheries Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), SIODFA have delimited 309 000 km2 of ocean floor in eleven separate benthic protected areas – a total zone with an area approximately the size of Norway – where their vessels will no longer fish. To verify compliance with these self-imposed restrictions, the companies will track their vessels’ locations and activities via a special satellite monitoring system.

On top of the voluntary establishment of these no-fishing Benthic Protected Areas, SIODFA has pledged to share extremely valuable scientific data collected using complex underwater technology with the soon-to-be-formed regional Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement and the FAO.

“Such deep-sea habitats are among the least known areas of the oceans and by pledging not to fish in them, these companies have taken a great step towards sustainability,” said Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the Global Marine Programme of IUCN – The World Conservation Union. By pledging not to fish in these areas, which span the southern Indian Ocean, the deepwater corals and the accompanying benthic fauna of this area will gain protection in one of the least explored and exploited deepwater areas of the world. He noted that at present, less than one percent of the world’s oceans fall within protected areas compared to over 12 percent of the planet’s terrestrial surface.

Areas of sea floor whose benthos and habitat are protected on the high-seas, or in areas beyond national jurisdiction, are a novelty as they do not benefit from any kind of formal protection. This underlines the innovative and pro-active initiative of these operators. “These voluntary closures are a unique innovation as so far no mechanism exists to effectively manage and conserve the deepwater biodiversity of high-seas areas. We hope that the governments involved in the upcoming meeting of the United Nations consultative process on the law of the sea recognize these voluntary protected areas and follow their example to underpin future efforts of the proposed Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement,” concluded Lundin, who stressed that "it is recognized that voluntary actions of this kind are extremely valuable and should be complemented by enforcement arrangements that apply to other fishing companies."


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Notes to the editors
SIODFA, the Southern Indian Ocean Deepwater Fishers’ Association, was formed by four major fishing companies: Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd (Australia), Bel Ocean II Ltd (Mauritius), Sealord Group (New Zealand) and TransNamibia Fishing Pty Ltd (Namibia). The objective of the association is to ensure sustainable fishing in the southern Indian Ocean in collaboration with the upcoming Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement

IUCN –The World Conservation Union
Created in 1948, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) brings together 81 States, 113 government agencies, 850 plus NGOs in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The World Conservation Union is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies. The Union is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 62 countries and is based in Gland, Switzerland.

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