This report presents a description of the Community fleet using bottom gears (fishing gears which are in contact with the seabed) on the high seas (waters located beyond national jurisdiction), together with an analysis of its economic and social importance.
Where possible, the importance is disaggregated by fishing activities in Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), regulated high seas areas and unregulated high seas areas.
The need for this study arises from international moves to address the effects of fishing with bottom gears on vulnerable marine ecosystems and in view of a Communication on the EU policy in respect of this. Catches from deep sea fisheries increased by 440% between 1975 and 2005 (high seas and EEZs), compared to a 47% increase for global marine catches. There is growing concern over the impact of fishing using gears that come into contact with the seabed (bottom gears), in particular in deep-sea areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals are located.
The EU is an important stakeholder in high seas bottom gear (HSBG) fisheries: five of the eleven countries responsible for 95 % of the reported high seas bottom trawl catches in 2001 were EU Member States (Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). The key EU Member States considered in this report are Estonia, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Although there is no commonly agreed definition for deep-sea species or fisheries, they occur at depths from 400 to over 2 000 metres, often on continental slopes or associated with seamounts, and the species are often slow-growing and vulnerable to over-exploitation. Deepwater species include orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus), oreos (Allocyttus spp., Pseudocyttus spp.), alfonsinos (Beryx spp.), redfish (e.g. Sebastes mentella, S. marinus), roundnose and roughhead grenadiers (Coryphaenoides rupestris and Macrourus berglax), blue ling (Molva dypterygia), Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippogl