Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

World Deep-sea fisheries
Fishery  Fact Sheet
Review of the state of world marine fishery resources 2009
World Deep-sea fisheries
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned byFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – more>>

Overview: Deep-sea fisheries comprise those fisheries that occur beyond and below the continental shelf break (on the continental slopes and below to about 2 000 m), or are undertaken in association with deep oceanic topographic structures such as seamounts, ridges and banks. The types of fishing gear and vessels that are involved vary considerably depending on the species targeted and their behaviour. The gear can include longlines and other hook and line gears, bottom trawls, midwater trawls, gillnets and traps/pots, but also in some cases pelagic gear such as purse seines.

The deep-sea habitat poses particular challenges to marine life as it is relatively cold, dark and of low productivity. The main thermocline rarely extends below 1 200 m and, below this, the temperature falls to about 2 °C and even lower in certain areas. No light penetrates beyond 1 000 m, and even at depths of 150 m light intensity is reduced to 1 percent of that at the surface and is insufficient for photosynthesis (van Dover, 2000; Koslow, 2007). Deep-sea species have developed different strategies for biological and life history adaptations to cope with the conditions found in the deep sea. They are a therefore a diverse group of species with different life histories, productivity rates and distribution patterns.

Deep-sea fisheries have attracted increased attention worldwide in recent years, and the sustainability of these fisheries and their potential impacts on biodiversity have been the focus of discussions in many international fora. Many deep-sea fisheries take place in the high seas, thus posing additional governance challenges. Those that have given rise to most concerns are fisheries that affect the most vulnerable species (e.g. those with lower productivity) and that are undertaken with gear types that may have an impact on the bottom habitat.

Location of World Deep-sea fisheries

Geographic reference:  World
Spatial Scale: Global
Reference year: 2009
Approach: Fishing Activity

Fishing Activity
Fishing Gear:
Type of production system: Industrial
Fishery Area: Atlantic, Northwest; Atlantic, Northeast; Atlantic, Western Central; Atlantic, Eastern Central;

Harvested Resource
Target Species: Abyssal grenadier; Roundnose grenadier; Orange roughy …  

Associated Species: Greenland halibut
Fishery Indicators

Fishing Activity
Type of production system: Industrial   

The Worldwide Review of Bottom Fisheries in the High Seas (Bensch et al., 2009) provided a regional overview of historical and current fisheries in the deep sea high seas. The review found that in 2006 about 285 vessels were involved in high seas demersal fisheries, with an estimated total catch of about 250 000 tonnes in 2006, based on a catch of about 60 species.
The species targeted differs between regions. In the Northeast Atlantic, vessels typically target a range of species including blue ling (Molva dypterygia), roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris), tusk (Brosme brosme), black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo) and some species of sharks. In the Northwest Atlantic, important species include Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis), Atlantic redfishes (Sebastes spp.) and skates. In other areas, more limited numbers of species are generally targeted. In the Southwest Atlantic, for example, Argentine hake is the main species (Merluccius hubbsi), and in the Southeast Atlantic the main species of commercial value are orange roughy, alfonsino (Beryx spp.), deep-sea red crab (Chaecon spp.) and Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). In the North and South Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean, most of the deepsea fishing occurs over seamounts and ridge areas. The targeted species in these fisheries include orange roughy, alfonsino, and slender armourhead (Pseudopentaceros wheeleri). In the North Pacific, there is a pot fishery for deep-sea crabs. In the Southern Ocean, fisheries target mainly toothfish with longlines (D. eleginoides and D. mawsoni).
Related Fisheries
Portuguese (Madeira) line fishery for black scabbardfish
Traditional deep-sea fisheries such as the Portuguese (Madeira) line fishery for black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo) is a rare example of a deep-sea fishery that, because it has traditionally used hook-and line-gear, has proved sustainable over a period of about 150 years (Martins and Fereira, 1995). Adults of this species are benthopelagic living in the depth range 400–1 600 m. It is a fast growing species with a life span of about 12– 14 years (Morales-Nin et al., 2002; Figueiredo et al., 2003). Landings in Madeira reached a maximum value of around 4 400 tonnes in 1998 and since then has steadily decreased to just below 3 000 tonnes in 2007 (Bordalo-Machado et al., 2009). The number of vessels active in this fishery has progressively decreased over time. However gear efficiency has increased mainly though an increase in the number of hooks per line set.
Hooks and lines
Related Fisheries
Trawling fisheries
The most commercially important deep-sea fisheries are those that are harvested by trawling. Many of these occur in association with seamount and seafloor ridges. Trawl fisheries using factory freezer trawlers started in the mid-1950s, primarily based on exploratory fishing conducted by large fishing fleet of the then Soviet Union. However, it was only later on, starting in the mid-1970s and further developing into the 1990s, that widespread exploitation of deep-sea regions began. This development was triggered by several factors including, among others, the introduction of EEZs. The establishment of EEZs excluded fleets that in the past had fished these waters and led some of them to look for new fishing grounds. Technological advances made fishing in the deep sea possible and commercially viable. Changes in the consumer perception of seafood, including the more widespread marketing of frozen products, also contributed to improved prices for deep-sea fishes.
Related Fisheries
Orange roughy
The fishery for orange roughy is well known among recently developed deepsea fisheries. In New Zealand and southeast Australia, commercial fisheries began in the 1970s and 1980s; however, orange roughy was first described from the Azores. Fisheries later developed in the North Atlantic, on the Walvis Ridge in the Southeast Atlantic (Namibia) in the mid-1990s, off Chile also in the 1990s and in the Southwest Indian Ocean in 1999. A small fishery also exists in the Bay of Biscay. Specialized aimed-trawling techniques have developed. At first, massive catches from spawning aggregations could be taken in minutes, resulting in split codends and lost catches. Maximum sustainable levels of exploitation of orange roughy may be as low as or lower than 5 percent of unfished biomass, i.e. M ~ 0.04. Accumulating evidence indicates that few of these fisheries have been exploited sustainably, and it remains uncertain what ongoing yields will be. Smaller stocks usually do not escape depletion once they become targeted. However, there is conflicting evidence as to whether other stocks have proved more resilient to overexploitation, possibly because fishing disperses the fish before the stock is depleted, and because of episodic spawning. In this case, where fishing depends on spawning aggregations, not all of the stock may be vulnerable to capture in any one year as not all spawn each year (Butterworth and Brandão, 2005).
Related Fisheries
The Macrouridae are another group whose members are widespread and abundant in particular locations. They are typical pelagic “cruisers” and inhabit the mid-to-upper continental slope. In the North Atlantic, fisheries that use bottom trawls exist for roughhead grenadier (Macrourus berglax) and roundnose grenadier. These fisheries initially fished in depths of 600–800 m, and more recently to 1 500 m. However, experience in these fisheries off Newfoundland shows the all-too-familiar pattern of TACs tracking declining trends in reported landings. The roundnose grenadier has a potential longevity of 70 years, although in the Northeast Atlantic, fish ages are usually of 20–30 years (Valerie and Pascal, 2000). Thus, as for other deep-sea species, Macrourids exhibit the characteristics of many deep-sea fisheries that render them particularly susceptible to overfishing.
Bottom trawls
Related Fisheries
The Pleuronectidae are a highly evolved group that is not usually associated with deep-sea fisheries. However, they constitute important fisheries as members of this group occur in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. In the Atlantic, the best known has been that for Greenland halibut on the continental slopes and high seas. This fish had an average size in commercial catches of about 1 kg up until the mid- 1980s, but then declined to about 200 g in the early 1990s (Koslow et al., 2000).
Related Fisheries
Purse seine fishery for Blue whiting
The blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) is also often classified as a deep-sea species, although this species has generally higher growth rates and is highly productive and supports large fisheries. The blue whiting is a bathypelagic species found from 150–3 000 m depth, and is caught mainly by pelagic gear types. This species is caught by purse seiners in the Northeast Atlantic. The species can attain a length of 40 cm with an average length of about 31 cm (Campos, Fonseca and Henriques, 2003). Blue whiting is a straddling stock occupying the EEZs of Faeroe Islands, Norway, the countries of the EU, and Iceland as well as the high seas. Exploitation started in the 1970s, but has become increasingly important. However, since the record catch of this species of 2.4 million tonnes in 2004, the catches have decreased drastically and catches in 2009 were only about 640 000 tonnes. The decrease has been attributed to a fall in recruitment in 2006, declining spawning stock and reduction of quotas. For 2012, the ICES recommends an allowable catch of 391 000 tonnes. Recruitment remains low and is forecast to decline (ICES, 2011).
Purse seines
Target Species
Neocyttus spp
Pseudocyttus spp

Although there is no commonly agreed definition for deep-sea fishes as such, in general, from a fisheries perspective, these species can be defined as those inhabiting waters of the continental slopes and beyond and exploited by fisheries operating n these areas. The behavioural characteristics of many “deep-sea” species further complicate a search for an easy and useful definition. Some deep-sea species migrate towards the surface at night, returning to deeper waters during the day. They thereby form a trophic link between surface waters and the benthopelagic fishes when these latter prey upon fish returning from the surface. Other fishes make this diel migration themselves, feeding in the surface layers and then descending, presumably to avoid being eaten themselves. Some species only inhabit deep-sea depths as adults.

Deep-sea fish species also display a variety of reproductive strategies ranging from strongly K-selected species, which may be semelparous (e.g. abyssal grenadier - Coryphaenoides armatus, a widely occurring macrourid), through ovoviparous and oviparous species to those that are strongly r-selected. A number of tactics have been adopted to reduce dispersion of eggs. For example, the buoyant eggs of the widespread deep-sea macrourids bear sculptured patterns that slow their ascent. This is an adaptation not present in species of this family living in shallower waters. Eggs of orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) are initially buoyant but later sink and probably finish their development on the seafloor, in this way facilitating their retention in their adult habitat.

Growth rate, an important factor for determining stock productivity, is also affected by depth and temperature. Although some deep-sea species, such as the blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou), are highly productive, many deep-sea species are slowgrowing, with a relatively high age of first maturity (e.g., orange roughy and the roundnose grenadier - Coryphaenoides rupestris). They may not spawn every year and thus have intermittent recruitment. These characteristics make them highly vulnerable to exploitation pressure.

Some species form dense aggregations which are accessible to fisheries which have developed the capability to fish in deep water over the last few decades. Important deep-sea species that form aggregations include orange roughy, the oreos (Allocyttus spp., Neocyttus spp. and Pseudocyttus spp.), alfonsinos (Beryx spp.) in lower-latitude fisheries, Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) in Southern Ocean fisheries, armourhead (Pseudopentaceros spp.) and others.

Away from seamounts, Gadiform fishes such as the Macrouridae predominate. These species also tend to be slow-growing but are not as “extreme” in their characteristics as species associated with seamount fisheries. Other species that may be included in this group are sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), morids (Moridae), cusk-eels (Brotulidae), and hakes (Merlucciidae). Species such as the blue whiting may also be considered a deep-sea fish.

Another important feature of deep-sea fishes is that much remains unknown and new discoveries continue to be made. Indeed, deep-sea elasmobranchs are one of the groups of particular conservation concern even when not exploited as they are latematuring and exhibit low fecundity and intermittent reproduction.
As for most of the other sections in the source volume the catch descriptions are based on FAO catch statistics – these are species reported to FAO by Member Countries. As mentioned above, there is no exact “definition” of what are regarded as “deep-sea fishes” and the type of fishes referred to may vary between different sources. Figure C4.1 shows the trend in catch of the deep-sea species listed in Table C4.1.. Unlike in the previous edition of this report (FAO, 2005), reported catches of largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus) and Bombay-duck (Harpadon nehereus) have not been included as these two species have a wide distribution range. Much of the catch is taken in relatively shallow waters (Sissenwine and Mace, 2007), and it is difficult to determine which portion comes from deep-sea fishing. Moreover, in the catch reports to FAO, there is often no indication of the proportion caught in the high seas. The catches increased from the 1950s, and this occurred most rapidly between the mid- 1970s and the end of the 1990s. This pattern was particularly obvious in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. However, no information is available to attribute the changes between 1979 and 1998 to an increase in actual catches or better reporting. Peak catches were observed in 2003 and 2004, when catches of about 3.7 million tonnes were reported. Since then, reported catches have declined, and in 2009 total catches were about 1.8 million tonnes. This decreasing trend can in large part be attributed to the decrease in reported catches of blue whiting in the Atlantic Ocean that decreased from 2.4 million tonnes in 2004 to about 640 000 tonnes in 2009. Other species in the Atlantic Ocean with high average catch in the last five years (2005–09) include Patagonian grenadier (Macruronus magellanicus), Greenland halibut, southern blue whiting (Micromesistius australis) and ling (Molva molva). In the Indian Ocean, reported catches have generally been higher since 1997 compared with earlier years. They have been fluctuating between 125 000 and 195 000 tonnes, with the highest catch being observed in 1997. The hairtails and scabbardfishes (not identified) are the species group with the highest average reported catches in the Indian Ocean in the last five years. Other important species include Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), blue grenadier (Macruronus novaezelandiae) and orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus). With the exception of the Patagonian toothfish, reported catches have decreased for these species in recent years in this region. In the Pacific Ocean, catches increased until 1992, after which they began to fluctuate until 1998–99 (peak just below 1 million tonnes in 1998). Since then, catches in the Pacific have begun to decrease. Since 2004, reported catches in the Pacific have been in the range between 500 000 tonnes and 550 000 tonnes. Species with the highest average catches in this ocean in the last five years include the grenadiers (blue grenadier, Patagonian grenadier and grenadiers and rattails [not identified]), southern blue whiting and the groups tilefishes (Branchiostegidae) and hairtails and scabbardfishes.
Figure C4.1 - Annual nominal catches of deep-sea species
Fishery Area

Geo References
Resources Exploited
Orange roughy
The orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) of the family Trachichthyidae is a species with a wide distribution range that is found in the North and South Atlantic, the Southern Indian Ocean, the Tasman Sea, and the South Pacific. It inhabits continental slopes, seamounts and other bottom features and is commonly found at depths of 500–1 500 m. It is a slow-growing species, with a high age of first maturity and relatively low fecundity (Bell et al., 1992). This species exists as national, transboundary, straddling and high seas stocks. It is caught at depths over 800 m by fisheries that often target spawning aggregations associated with seamounts.
Figure C4.2 shows the catches of orange roughy reported to the FAO. Catches from the Pacific Ocean dominate, with only limited catches from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in recent years. Catches for this species are decreasing, and catches in 2009 were about 13 000 tonnes compared with more than 91 000 tonnes in 1990.
The biological characteristics of this species (slow growth and exceptional longevity) and its aggregating behaviour make it vulnerable to overfishing. As such, many smaller fisheries for this species have been closed down as the stocks have been overexploited and the fishery has become commercially unviable. Stock assessments for this species are often uncertain, and lack of knowledge of recruitment is a main issue of concern for the management of this fishery (Dunn, 2007).
Figure C4.2 - Annual nominal catches of orange roughy

Oreo dories
The oreo dories (Allocystus spp., Neocystus spp. and Pseudocustus spp.) (Figure C4.3) are Oreostomadids that aggregate close to the sea bed in the deep-sea and form large shoals over seamounts and canyons. Similar to orange roughy, these species are also long-lived and slow-growing. The juveniles are pelagic and inhabit oceanic waters. They tend to be dispersed over smooth grounds. Their eggs float near the sea surface, and the larvae also inhabit surface waters. The species are caught both within national jurisdictions and on the high seas.
In Australian waters, spiky oreo (Neocyttus rhomboidalis) are more abundant at intermediate depths (600–800 m) and warty oreo (Alocyttes verrucosus) in deeper waters (900–1 200 m). Both species are benthopelagic feeders feeding on salps, crustaceans, fish and squid.
Figure C4.3 shows the reported catches of oreo dories NEI (not identified to species level), the black oreo (Alocyttes niger), smooth oreo dory (Pseudocyttus maculates) and spiky oreo indicating catches between 15 000 and 20 000 tonnes in the Pacific in the last five years. Up to 2001, species were recorded at an aggregated level, and since then catches have been reported for the species listed above.
As for many other species, management of these fisheries on the high seas is challenging because of a lack of data. Ageing data from Australia and New Zealand indicate that the maximum age for smooth is around 86 years, and 153 years for black oreo (Stewart et al., 1995; McMillan, 2008). Natural mortality for smooth oreo has been estimated at 0.063 per year, and 0.044 per year for black oreo. Estimates from New Zealand indicates the MSY to be of the order of 1.6 percent of B0 if the population is not to be reduced to a biomass of less than 0.2 B0 (probability < 0.2) (Doonan and McMillan, 2006). For operational reasons, where they are managed at all, smooth, black and spiky oreos have been managed as a single stock with the associate dangers this implies (Annala, Sullivan and O’Brien, 1999).
Figure C4.3 - Annual nominal catches of Oreo dories

The alfonsinos (Beryx sp., Bericidae) have a circumglobal distribution although they are generally not present in the northeast Pacific. They inhabit the outer shelf (180 m) and slope to at least 1 300 m depth, probably rising from the bottom at night. Reported catches of this genus are mainly B. splendens and B. decadactylus. Beryx splendens are caught in midwater trawls over shallower seamounts, underwater ridges and on the slope edge between 300 and 500 m. The juveniles are pelagic. There is no common agreement on the stock structure for alfonsino and contradictory information is available supporting different hypothesis (ICES WGDEEP, 2010). Alfonsino are caught both within national jurisdictions and on the high-seas.
Figure C4.4 shows that catches of alfonsinos have fluctuated widely, with high catches at the end of the 1990s and the first decade of 2000. The highest catch was in 2003 (just over 14 000 tonnes). Since then, catches have generally decreased and, in 2009, catches of about 5 000 tonnes were reported. Highest catches are reported from the Pacific, where this species constitutes one of the main target species in the trawl and gillnet fisheries in the high seas areas of the Northwest Pacific (Bensch et al., 2009). Catches are also reported from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, although almost no catches have been reported from the Indian Ocean in recent years. This low level of catch may also be linked to national reporting restrictions which apply to fisheries operating with a limited number of vessels.
The maximum recorded age for this species range from 9 years (Krug et al., 2011) to 23 years (Adachi et al., 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2011) and become sexually mature at about 4 years of age. Natural mortality is estimated to be about 0.23. Thus, they offer a greater prospect of sustaining the deep-sea fisheries that target them. Little is known about the local area stock structure of these species, and it is for example believed that the New Zealand fishery may be exploiting a wider South Pacific stock (Annala, Sullivan and O’Brien, 1999).
Figure C4.4 - Annual nominal catches of alfonsino

Toothfish (Dissostichus spp.) of the family Notothenidae, have a circumpolar distribution within Southern Ocean waters. Patagonian toothfish (D. eleginoides) are found around southern South America, and Antarctic toothfish (D. mawsoni) occur in high latitudes south of the Pacific region. The two species overlap between 60°S and 65°S, and both occur to depths of 3 000 m. The northern limit for most populations of Patagonian toothfish is 45°S, except along the coasts of Chile and Argentina where they may extend north in deeper colder water. Significant populations of Patagonian toothfish exist in the waters of, and adjacent to, the various sub-Antarctic islands and in the waters of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. Figure C4.5 indicates that most catches of toothfish have been reported in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in recent years, with total reported catches of about 10 000–12 000 tonnes since 2004.
The problem of IUU has been considerably reduced in recent years. However, it still remains a major concern in many regions. Toothfish mainly fall under the management responsibility of the CCAMLR (see Chapter B16 for further information on toothfish).
Figure C4.5 - Annual nominal catches of toothfish

Pelagic armourhead
The armourheads belong to the family Pentacerotidae and inhabit seamounts, especially in the North Pacific but also in other oceans. There are three species of armourhead, the pelagic armourhead (Pseudopentaceros richardsoni), the slender armourhead (P. wheeleri) and longfin (P. pectoralis), but only the pelagic armourhead is currently reported in FAO catch data.
Figure C4.6 shows that reported catches of pelagic armourhead have stayed quite low, with a peak of reported catches in the Atlantic in 1991 of about 1 200 tonnes. However, historically, substantial catches of pelagic armourheads NEI (Pseudopentaceros spp.) were reported in the late 1960s and early 1970s, reaching almost 1.8 million tonnes in 1973. The slender armourhead – often also referred to as pelagic armourhead was the target of a large fishery in the high seas of the North Pacific starting in the late 1960s. At this time, vessels from Japan and the then Soviet Union began trawling on the Emperor Seamount chain and the Northern Hawaiian Ridge. The total catch for the Soviet vessels was unknown but was estimated to be more than 133 400 tonnes in the period 1967– 1977. Between 1969 and 1977, the Japanese sent from two to five trawlers a year to this area and catches ranged from 22 800 to 35 100 tonnes a year. Ninety percent of the catch was of pelagic armourhead. Catches then fell to 5 800– 9 900 tonnes between 1977 and 1982.
Figure C4.6 - Annual nominal catches of pelagic armourhead

Blue grenadier (hoki)
Blue grenadier or hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae) is a benthopelagic macruronid that usually lives near the bottom but forms midwater aggregations for spawning. Large adult fish generally occur deeper than 400 m, while juveniles may be found in shallower water. Midwater trawl fisheries target aggregations near canyons that are often close to coasts in areas of narrow continental shelves. Figure C4.7 shows the reported catches of these species, which are mainly caught in the Pacific. Reported catches decreased from more than 300 000 tonnes in 1998 to about 100 000 tonnes in 2009.
Knowledge of the stock structure for this species is often uncertain. Management experience in at least some jurisdictions indicates that this resource can be sustainably managed. In the major global fishery for this species, in New Zealand, the TAC has changed from time to time as the size of the hoki stocks varied. The TAC in New Zealand has fluctuated between 200 000 and 250 000 tonnes in earlier years, being reduced gradually from the year 2000, down to 90 000 tonnes in 2007 and 2008 as the spawning stock declined. This decline is also believed to have been influenced by ENSO-related oceanographic events. Subsequent to this, the TAC has again increased to 130 000 tonnes for the coming season as a result of the rebuilding of stocks in recent times.
Figure C4.7 - Annual nominal catches of blue grenadier
Deep-sea fisheries face many of the same management issues as coastal fisheries. However, the great depths and distances from the coast at which marine living resources are caught by these fisheries pose some additional scientific, technical and governancerelated difficulties in their management. Some deep-sea species are widespread and can be found in all major oceans. In other cases, the species may be specific to a region. In both situations, management methods must address the vulnerability of the stocks to depletion.
In some fisheries that targeted deep-sea species, initial high catch rates decreased rapidly as the low productivity of the species did not allow for sustainable harvest at the initial levels of fishing effort, leading to closure of these fisheries (Clarke, 2001). Similar to many shelf fisheries, deep-sea fisheries (depending on species targeted and gear used) can catch considerable amounts of bycatch, including sharks. Little information is currently available on bycatch from deep-sea fisheries because of the lack of tools and procedures to obtain information in a consistent way. The potential effects of deepsea fishing operations on deep-sea communities have also raised great concern and debate globally. Some of these communities, such as coldwater corals and hydroids, some sponge-dominated communities and seep or vent communities are comprised of unique invertebrate or microbial species. Concern has also been raised for species and ecosystems associated with the target species. The potential recovery time of affected ecosystems can be great, although the consequences of impacts differ depending on the fishing gear used, and these impacts can be reduced by use of appropriate fishing practices.
Deep-sea fisheries, particularly those taking place in the high seas, and the potential impact on fish stocks, biodiversity and critical habitats have recently been the focus of much international debate. Although deep-sea fisheries in the high seas affect species with diverse life histories and productivity rates, those that have raised the most concern are fisheries that affect target or bycatch species with long lives and low productivity and/or damage fragile habitats.
These issues have been discussed in various international forums, including COFI and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in recent years. In 2006, a UNGA Resolution (61/105) called on “States to take action immediately, individually and through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements (RFMO/ As), and consistent with the precautionary approach and ecosystem approaches, to sustainably manage fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine ecosystem”. In 2009, the UNGA reaffirmed the commitment to sustainable deep-sea bottom fishing practices through the passage of Resolution 64/72.
Acting on the requests of UNGA Resolution 61/105, the Twenty-seventh Session of COFI agreed in March 2007 that FAO should develop technical guidelines, including standards for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas, and these were finalized in 2008 (FAO, 2009).
The FAO International Guidelines for the management of deep–sea fisheries in the high seas are a voluntary international instrument. They provide management guidance to facilitate and encourage the efforts of States and RFMO/As towards sustainable use of marine living resources exploited by deep-sea fisheries as well as advice on the prevention of significant adverse impacts on deep-sea vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and the protection of marine biodiversity that these ecosystems contain. The FAO International Guidelines also establish a set of criteria to be used to determine if an area is a VME and suggest management approaches for reducing adverse impacts. This high level guidance have been taken up by RFMOs and States that are analysing the guidance with the aim to make then operational in the context of deep-sea fisheries in different regions.
As of January 2010, five RFMO/As and multilateral organizations had the legal competence to manage discrete demersal fisheries in the high seas. These include the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and Southeast Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO).
Jurisdictional framework
Management Body/Authority(ies):
Mandate: Management; Scientific Advice.  
Mandate: Management; Scientific Advice.  
Management Body/Authority(ies): Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)
Mandate: Management; Scientific Advice.  
Management Body/Authority(ies): North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
Mandate: Management.  
Mandate: Management; Scientific Advice.  
Mandate: Scientific Advice.  

Other RFMO/As are being developed and await ratification (Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement [SIOFA]) or are being negotiated, such as the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) and the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (NPRFMO).

In areas where RFMO/As do not yet exist, some measures have been put in place by flag States, the EU or the fishing industry (e.g. the Southern Indian Ocean Deepwater Fishers Association). These measures cover their vessels or member States operating in areas beyond national jurisdictions to address management and conservation on an interim basis.
Despite the progress on improved management of these fisheries, there are many aspects that are yet to be addressed before full implementation of the FAO International Guidelines or the relevant UNGA resolutions can be achieved. An FAO workshop in 2010 (FAO, 2011) identified different impediments to implementation of the guidelines. These barriers include: (i) support for the signature and ratification of RFMO/As where they are in progress; (ii) specific assistance for developing countries in the implementation of the FAO deep-sea guidelines; (iii) compilation of best practices and development of relevant guidance on impacts and risk assessment, encounter protocols and related mitigation measures; (iv) facilitation of opportunities for discussions among fishing nations operating in the same area (particularly where no RFMO/A is in place); (v) development of guidance on the use of the VME criteria; and (vi) facilitation of work on deep-sea high seas stock assessments to ensure sustainable fisheries.
Source of Information
Marine and Inland Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “Review of the state of world marine fishery resources” . FAO FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE TECHNICAL PAPER. No. 569. Rome, FAO. 2011. Click to open
The bibliographic references are available through the hyperlink displayed in "Source of Information".

David Milton, Mario Rui R. Pinho and Yimin Ye are gratefully acknowledged for their contributions and review of the earlier version of the chapter.
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