White House Joins International Call for Ban on Deep Sea Trawling

Following an international plea by a coalition of 60 environmental groups concerned about the health of marine ecosystems, the Bush administration last week joined dozens of other countries in calling on the United Nations to institute an international moratorium on unregulated high seas bottom trawling. Scientists say the fishing practice is destroying some of the world’s rarest and most sensitive ocean habitats.

Fisherman emptying catch into fish pound on a North Sea trawler.© Digital Vision

“The UN has been debating this issue for three years while the problem keeps getting worse,” says Lisa Speer of the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), a leading nonprofit that serves on the steering committee of the organization calling for the moratorium, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC). “Fleets ply vast areas of open ocean beyond the reach of any national jurisdiction, and they are doing irreparable damage to some of the oldest and most unique ecosystems on Earth.”

Some of the world”s leading ocean conservation groups formed DSCC back in 2004 to marshal international support for the idea of banning bottom trawling on the world”s high seas. The coalition”s steering group consists of Conservation International, Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Pew Charitable Trusts and Seas at Risk.

DSCC groups have been lobbying the White House for two years in support of the moratorium. According to Kelly Rigg, DSCC”s coordinator, the decision by the U.S. to participate will be crucial in building international support for and acceptance of the idea. “This is a major step forward, and we are delighted to see President Bush taking up the call to support a halt to unregulated destructive fishing on the high seas,” Rigg concludes.