Wellington, July 27 NZPA - The European Union has signed a regional fisheries management convention to set rules for fishing on the high seas from western Australia to South America.
The signing of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources of the South Pacific Ocean took place in Wellington yesterday, with officials from the EU's Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) will underpin management of non-highly migratory fish species in the region, including deep sea fish stocks such as orange roughy, and pelagic species such as jack mackerel.
The EU is the seventh party to sign the SPRFMO Convention, first signed by New Zealand on February 1.
Also discussed at the meeting with Wellington fisheries officials were trade issues and the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
The convention was agreed in November last year in Auckland by over 20 countries, though it has been criticised for not leading to stronger measures for the jack mackerel fishery adjacent to South American waters. Fishing nations are supposed to have been limiting their fishing effort for this species to the levels seen in 2007, but this is has apparently been ignored by some fishers.
Jack mackerel interim measures are due to be reviewed in early 2011, and further work on a stock assessment is being done.
The arrangement does not govern tuna and other highly migratory species, which are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, but participants have agreed new interim measures to prohibit deepwater gillnetting on the high seas. Unchecked use of nets in deep water has resulted in lost gear which continues to "ghost fish" for a long time, killing the fish it trapped.
The SPRFMO will have its headquarters and secretariat in New Zealand.
Last month, a separate international body, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition released a report at the United Nations which described major shortcomings in efforts to protect the deep-ocean from the destructive impact of fishing.
Lead author of the report Dr Alex Rogers, of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), said that regional fisheries management organisations were failing to manage deep-sea bottom fisheries on the high seas sustainably with respect to target and by-catch species.
The report warned that while substantial portions of the high seas in some regions such as the Northeast Atlantic had been closed to bottom fishing to protect deep-sea coral ecosystems, most high seas areas remained open to continued bottom fishing with few constraints.
In the New Zealand-based convention, a "precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach" to fisheries management is supposed to safeguard marine ecosystems, particularly those which have long recovery times following disturbance.
Impact assessment of bottom fishing has been required of bottom fishing in the SPRFMO area since 2007. New Zealand is one of two countries to have had an impact assessment submitted and reviewed by the SPRFMO interim science working group .