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 highseas. The review found that in 2006 about 285 vessels were involved in high seasdemersal fisheries, with an estimated total catch of about 250 000 tonnes in 2006, basedon a catch of about 60 species.
The species targeted differs between regions. In theNortheast Atlantic, vessels typically target a range of species including blue ling (Molvadypterygia), roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris), tusk (Brosme brosme),black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo) and some species of sharks. In the NorthwestAtlantic, important species include Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides),northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis), Atlantic redfishes (Sebastes spp.) and skates. Inother areas, more limited numbers of species are generally targeted. In the SouthwestAtlantic, for example, Argentine hake is the main species (Merluccius hubbsi), and in theSoutheast Atlantic the main species of commercial value are orange roughy, alfonsino(Beryx spp.), deep-sea red crab (Chaecon spp.) and Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichuseleginoides). In the North and South Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean, most of the deepseafishing occurs over seamounts and ridge areas. The targeted species in these fisheriesinclude 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 blackscabbardfish
Traditional deep-sea fisheries such as the Portuguese (Madeira) line fishery for blackscabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo) is a rare example of a deep-sea fishery that, because ithas traditionally used hook-and line-gear, has proved sustainable over a period of about150 years (Martins and Fereira, 1995). Adults of this species are benthopelagic living inthe 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 reacheda 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 vesselsactive in this fishery has progressively decreased over time. However gear efficiency hasincreased 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 harvestedby trawling. Many of these occur in association with seamount and seafloor ridges.Trawl fisheries using factory freezer trawlers started in the mid-1950s, primarily basedon 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 intothe 1990s, that widespread exploitation of deep-sea regions began. This developmentwas triggered by several factors including, among others, the introduction of EEZs. Theestablishment of EEZs excluded fleets that in the past had fished these waters and ledsome of them to look for new fishing grounds. Technological advances made fishing inthe deep sea possible and commercially viable. Changes in the consumer perception ofseafood, including the more widespread marketing of frozen products, also contributedto improved prices for deep-sea fishes.
Related Fisheries
Orange roughy
The fishery for orange roughy is well known among recently developed deepseafisheries. In New Zealand and southeast Australia, commercial fisheries began inthe 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 SoutheastAtlantic (Namibia) in the mid-1990s, off Chile also in the 1990s and in the SouthwestIndian Ocean in 1999. A small fishery also exists in the Bay of Biscay. Specializedaimed-trawling techniques have developed. At first, massive catches from spawningaggregations 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 lowerthan 5 percent of unfished biomass, i.e. M ~ 0.04. Accumulating evidence indicates thatfew of these fisheries have been exploited sustainably, and it remains uncertain whatongoing yields will be. Smaller stocks usually do not escape depletion once they becometargeted. However, there is conflicting evidence as to whether other stocks have provedmore resilient to overexploitation, possibly because fishing disperses the fish before thestock is depleted, and because of episodic spawning. In this case, where fishing dependson spawning aggregations, not all of the stock may be vulnerable to capture in any oneyear as not all spawn each year (Butterworth and Brandão, 2005).
Related Fisheries
The Macrouridae are another group whose members are widespread and abundantin particular locations. They are typical pelagic “cruisers” and inhabit the mid-to-upper continental slope. In the North Atlantic, fisheries that use bottom trawls existfor roughhead grenadier (Macrourus berglax) and roundnose grenadier. These fisheriesinitially 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 ofTACs tracking declining trends in reported landings. The roundnose grenadier has apotential longevity of 70 years, although in the Northeast Atlantic, fish ages are usuallyof 20–30 years (Valerie and Pascal, 2000). Thus, as for other deep-sea species, Macrouridsexhibit the characteristics of many deep-sea fisheries that render them particularlysusceptible to overfishing.
Bottom trawls
Related Fisheries
The Pleuronectidae are a highly evolved group that is not usually associated withdeep-sea fisheries. However, they constitute important fisheries as members of thisgroup 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 highseas. 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-seaspecies, although this species has generally higher growth rates and is highly productiveand supports large fisheries. The blue whiting is a bathypelagic species found from150–3 000 m depth, and is caught mainly by pelagic gear types. This species is caughtby purse seiners in the Northeast Atlantic. The species can attain a length of 40 cmwith an average length of about 31 cm (Campos, Fonseca and Henriques, 2003). Bluewhiting is a straddling stock occupying the EEZs of Faeroe Islands, Norway, thecountries of the EU, and Iceland as well as the high seas. Exploitation started in the1970s, but has become increasingly important. However, since the record catch of thisspecies of 2.4 million tonnes in 2004, the catches have decreased drastically and catchesin 2009 were only about 640 000 tonnes. The decrease has been attributed to a fall inrecruitment in 2006, declining spawning stock and reduction of quotas. For 2012, theICES recommends an allowable catch of 391 000 tonnes. Recruitment remains low andis 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 ofthe continental slopes and beyond and exploited by fisheries operating n these areas.The behavioural characteristics of many “deep-sea” species further complicate a searchfor an easy and useful definition. Some deep-sea species migrate towards the surfaceat night, returning to deeper waters during the day. They thereby form a trophic linkbetween surface waters and the benthopelagic fishes when these latter prey upon fishreturning from the surface. Other fishes make this diel migration themselves, feedingin 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 rangingfrom strongly K-selected species, which may be semelparous (e.g. abyssal grenadier- Coryphaenoides armatus, a widely occurring macrourid), through ovoviparous andoviparous species to those that are strongly r-selected. A number of tactics have beenadopted to reduce dispersion of eggs. For example, the buoyant eggs of the widespreaddeep-sea macrourids bear sculptured patterns that slow their ascent. This is an adaptationnot 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 theirdevelopment on the seafloor, in this way facilitating their retention in their adulthabitat.

Growth rate, an important factor for determining stock productivity, is also affectedby 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 theroundnose grenadier - Coryphaenoides rupestris). They may not spawn every year andthus have intermittent recruitment. These characteristics make them highly vulnerableto exploitation pressure.

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

Away from seamounts, Gadiform fishes such as the Macrouridae predominate. Thesespecies also tend to be slow-growing but are not as “extreme” in their characteristicsas species associated with seamount fisheries. Other species that may be includedin this group are sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), Greenland halibut (Reinhardtiushippoglossoides), 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 andnew discoveries continue to be made. Indeed, deep-sea elasmobranchs are one of thegroups of particular conservation concern even when not exploited as they are latematuringand exhibit low fecundity and intermittent reproduction.
As for most of the other sections in the source volume the catch descriptions are based on FAOcatch statistics – these are species reported to FAO by Member Countries. As mentionedabove, there is no exact “definition” of what are regarded as “deep-sea fishes” and thetype of fishes referred to may vary between different sources. Figure C4.1 shows thetrend in catch of the deep-sea species listed in Table C4.1.. Unlike in the previous editionof this report (FAO, 2005), reported catchesof largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus) andBombay-duck (Harpadon nehereus) have notbeen included as these two species have a widedistribution range. Much of the catch is takenin relatively shallow waters (Sissenwine andMace, 2007), and it is difficult to determinewhich portion comes from deep-sea fishing.Moreover, in the catch reports to FAO, thereis often no indication of the proportion caughtin the high seas.The catches increased from the 1950s, andthis occurred most rapidly between the mid-1970s and the end of the 1990s. This patternwas particularly obvious in the Pacific andIndian Oceans. However, no information isavailable to attribute the changes between 1979 and 1998 to an increase in actual catches or better reporting. Peak catches wereobserved 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 1.8million tonnes. This decreasing trend can in large part be attributed to the decrease inreported catches of blue whiting in the Atlantic Ocean that decreased from 2.4 milliontonnes in 2004 to about 640 000 tonnes in 2009. Other species in the Atlantic Oceanwith high average catch in the last five years (2005–09) include Patagonian grenadier(Macruronus magellanicus), Greenland halibut, southern blue whiting (Micromesistiusaustralis) and ling (Molva molva). In the Indian Ocean, reported catches have generallybeen higher since 1997 compared with earlier years. They have been fluctuating between125 000 and 195 000 tonnes, with the highest catch being observed in 1997. The hairtailsand scabbardfishes (not identified) are the species group with the highest averagereported catches in the Indian Ocean in the last five years. Other important speciesinclude Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), blue grenadier (Macruronusnovaezelandiae) and orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus). With the exception of thePatagonian toothfish, reported catches have decreased for these species in recent yearsin this region. In the Pacific Ocean, catches increased until 1992, after which they beganto fluctuate until 1998–99 (peak just below 1 million tonnes in 1998). Since then, catchesin the Pacific have begun to decrease. Since 2004, reported catches in the Pacific havebeen in the range between 500 000 tonnes and 550 000 tonnes. Species with the highestaverage catches in this ocean in the last five years include the grenadiers (blue grenadier,Patagonian grenadier and grenadiers and rattails [not identified]), southern blue whitingand 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 specieswith a wide distribution range that is found in the North and South Atlantic, the Southern Indian Ocean, the Tasman Sea, andthe South Pacific. It inhabits continental slopes,seamounts and other bottom features and iscommonly found at depths of 500–1 500 m. Itis a slow-growing species, with a high age offirst maturity and relatively low fecundity (Bellet al., 1992). This species exists as national,transboundary, straddling and high seas stocks.It is caught at depths over 800 m by fisheries thatoften target spawning aggregations associatedwith seamounts.
Figure C4.2 shows the catches of orangeroughy reported to the FAO. Catches fromthe Pacific Ocean dominate, with only limitedcatches from the Atlantic and Indian Oceansin recent years. Catches for this species aredecreasing, and catches in 2009 were about13 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 smallerfisheries for this species have been closed down as the stocks have been overexploitedand the fishery has become commercially unviable. Stock assessments for this speciesare often uncertain, and lack of knowledge of recruitment is a main issue of concern forthe 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 largeshoals over seamounts and canyons. Similar to orange roughy, these species are alsolong-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 nationaljurisdictions and on the high seas.
In Australian waters, spiky oreo (Neocyttus rhomboidalis) are more abundant atintermediate 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, fishand squid.
Figure C4.3 shows the reported catchesof oreo dories NEI (not identified to specieslevel), the black oreo (Alocyttes niger), smoothoreo dory (Pseudocyttus maculates) and spikyoreo indicating catches between 15 000 and20 000 tonnes in the Pacific in the last fiveyears. Up to 2001, species were recorded at anaggregated level, and since then catches havebeen reported for the species listed above.
As for many other species, management ofthese fisheries on the high seas is challengingbecause of a lack of data. Ageing data fromAustralia and New Zealand indicate that themaximum 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, and0.044 per year for black oreo. Estimates fromNew Zealand indicates the MSY to be of theorder of 1.6 percent of B0 if the population isnot to be reduced to a biomass of less than 0.2 B0(probability < 0.2) (Doonan and McMillan,2006). For operational reasons, where they aremanaged at all, smooth, black and spiky oreoshave been managed as a single stock with theassociate dangers this implies (Annala, Sullivanand O’Brien, 1999).
Figure C4.3 - Annual nominal catches of Oreo dories

The alfonsinos (Beryx sp., Bericidae) have acircumglobal distribution although they aregenerally not present in the northeast Pacific. Theyinhabit the outer shelf (180 m) and slope to at least 1 300 m depth, probably rising from thebottom at night. Reported catches of this genus are mainly B. splendens and B. decadactylus.Beryx splendens are caught in midwater trawls over shallower seamounts, underwaterridges and on the slope edge between 300 and 500 m. The juveniles are pelagic. There is nocommon agreement on the stock structure for alfonsino and contradictory information isavailable supporting different hypothesis (ICES WGDEEP, 2010). Alfonsino are caughtboth within national jurisdictions and on the high-seas.
Figure C4.4 shows that catches of alfonsinos have fluctuated widely, with high catchesat the end of the 1990s and the first decade of 2000. The highest catch was in 2003 (justover 14 000 tonnes). Since then, catches have generally decreased and, in 2009, catchesof 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 gillnetfisheries in the high seas areas of the Northwest Pacific (Bensch et al., 2009). Catchesare also reported from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, although almost no catches havebeen reported from the Indian Ocean in recent years. This low level of catch may alsobe linked to national reporting restrictions which apply to fisheries operating with alimited number of vessels.
The maximum recorded age for this species range from 9 years (Krug et al., 2011) to23 years (Adachi et al., 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2011) and become sexually mature atabout 4 years of age. Natural mortality is estimated to be about 0.23. Thus, they offera greater prospect of sustaining the deep-sea fisheries that target them. Little is knownabout the local area stock structure of these species, and it is for example believed thatthe New Zealand fishery may be exploiting a wider South Pacific stock (Annala, Sullivanand O’Brien, 1999).
Figure C4.4 - Annual nominal catches of alfonsino

Toothfish (Dissostichus spp.) of the family Notothenidae, have a circumpolar distributionwithin Southern Ocean waters. Patagonian toothfish (D. eleginoides) are found aroundsouthern South America, and Antarctic toothfish (D. mawsoni) occur in high latitudessouth of the Pacific region. The two species overlap between 60°S and 65°S, and bothoccur to depths of 3 000 m. The northern limit for most populations of Patagoniantoothfish is 45°S, except along the coasts of Chile and Argentina where they may extendnorth in deeper colder water. Significant populations of Patagonian toothfish exist in thewaters 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 havebeen reported in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in recent years, with total reportedcatches of about 10 000–12 000 tonnes since 2004.
The problem of IUU has been considerablyreduced in recent years. However, it stillremains a major concern in many regions.Toothfish mainly fall under the managementresponsibility of the CCAMLR (see ChapterB16 for further information on toothfish).
Figure C4.5 - Annual nominal catches of toothfish

Pelagic armourhead
The armourheads belong to the familyPentacerotidae and inhabit seamounts,especially in the North Pacific but also in otheroceans. There are three species of armourhead,the pelagic armourhead (Pseudopentacerosrichardsoni), the slender armourhead(P. wheeleri) and longfin (P. pectoralis), but onlythe pelagic armourhead is currently reported inFAO catch data.
Figure C4.6 shows that reported catches ofpelagic armourhead have stayed quite low, witha peak of reported catches in the Atlantic in 1991of about 1 200 tonnes. However, historically,substantial catches of pelagic armourheadsNEI (Pseudopentaceros spp.) were reportedin the late 1960s and early 1970s, reachingalmost 1.8 million tonnes in 1973. The slenderarmourhead – often also referred to as pelagicarmourhead was the target of a large fishery inthe high seas of the North Pacific starting inthe late 1960s. At this time, vessels from Japanand the then Soviet Union began trawling onthe Emperor Seamount chain and the NorthernHawaiian Ridge. The total catch for the Sovietvessels was unknown but was estimated to bemore than 133 400 tonnes in the period 1967–1977. Between 1969 and 1977, the Japanese sentfrom two to five trawlers a year to this area andcatches ranged from 22 800 to 35 100 tonnesa year. Ninety percent of the catch was ofpelagic 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 (Macruronusnovaezelandiae) is a benthopelagic macruronidthat usually lives near the bottom but formsmidwater aggregations for spawning. Largeadult fish generally occur deeper than 400 m,while juveniles may be found in shallower water.Midwater trawl fisheries target aggregationsnear canyons that are often close to coasts inareas of narrow continental shelves. Figure C4.7 shows the reported catches of thesespecies, which are mainly caught in the Pacific. Reported catches decreased from morethan 300 000 tonnes in 1998 to about 100 000 tonnes in 2009.
Knowledge of the stock structure for this species is often uncertain. Managementexperience in at least some jurisdictions indicates that this resource can be sustainablymanaged. In the major global fishery for this species, in New Zealand, the TAC haschanged from time to time as the size of the hoki stocks varied. The TAC in New Zealandhas fluctuated between 200 000 and 250 000 tonnes in earlier years, being reducedgradually from the year 2000, down to 90 000 tonnes in 2007 and 2008 as the spawningstock declined. This decline is also believed to have been influenced by ENSO-relatedoceanographic events. Subsequent to this, the TAC has again increased to 130 000 tonnesfor 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 resourcesare caught by these fisheries pose some additional scientific, technical and governancerelateddifficulties in their management. Some deep-sea species are widespread and canbe found in all major oceans. In other cases, the species may be specific to a region. Inboth situations, management methods must address the vulnerability of the stocks todepletion.
In some fisheries that targeted deep-sea species, initial high catch rates decreasedrapidly as the low productivity of the species did not allow for sustainable harvest at theinitial levels of fishing effort, leading to closure of these fisheries (Clarke, 2001). Similarto many shelf fisheries, deep-sea fisheries (depending on species targeted and gear used)can catch considerable amounts of bycatch, including sharks. Little information iscurrently available on bycatch from deep-sea fisheries because of the lack of tools andprocedures to obtain information in a consistent way. The potential effects of deepseafishing operations on deep-sea communities have also raised great concern anddebate globally. Some of these communities, such as coldwater corals and hydroids,some sponge-dominated communities and seep or vent communities are comprised ofunique invertebrate or microbial species. Concern has also been raised for species andecosystems associated with the target species. The potential recovery time of affectedecosystems can be great, although the consequences of impacts differ depending onthe fishing gear used, and these impacts can be reduced by use of appropriate fishingpractices.
Deep-sea fisheries, particularly those taking place in the high seas, and the potentialimpact on fish stocks, biodiversity and critical habitats have recently been the focus ofmuch international debate. Although deep-sea fisheries in the high seas affect specieswith diverse life histories and productivity rates, those that have raised the most concernare fisheries that affect target or bycatch species with long lives and low productivityand/or damage fragile habitats.
These issues have been discussed in various international forums, including COFIand the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in recent years. In 2006,a UNGA Resolution (61/105) called on “States to take action immediately, individuallyand through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements (RFMO/As), and consistent with the precautionary approach and ecosystem approaches, tosustainably manage fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine ecosystem”. In 2009, theUNGA reaffirmed the commitment to sustainable deep-sea bottom fishing practicesthrough the passage of Resolution 64/72.
Acting on the requests of UNGA Resolution 61/105, the Twenty-seventh Session ofCOFI agreed in March 2007 that FAO should develop technical guidelines, includingstandards for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas, and these werefinalized in 2008 (FAO, 2009).
The FAO International Guidelines for the management of deep–sea fisheries in thehigh seas are a voluntary international instrument. They provide management guidance to facilitate and encourage the efforts of States and RFMO/As towards sustainableuse of marine living resources exploited by deep-sea fisheries as well as advice on theprevention of significant adverse impacts on deep-sea vulnerable marine ecosystems(VMEs) and the protection of marine biodiversity that these ecosystems contain. TheFAO International Guidelines also establish a set of criteria to be used to determine ifan 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 analysingthe guidance with the aim to make then operational in the context of deep-sea fisheriesin different regions.
As of January 2010, five RFMO/As and multilateral organizations had the legalcompetence to manage discrete demersal fisheries in the high seas. These include theCommission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR),General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), Northwest AtlanticFisheries 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 beingdeveloped and await ratification (Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement [SIOFA])or are being negotiated, such as the South Pacific Regional Fisheries ManagementOrganisation (SPRFMO) and the North Pacific Regional Fisheries ManagementOrganization (NPRFMO).

In areas where RFMO/As do not yet exist, some measures have been put in place byflag States, the EU or the fishing industry (e.g. the Southern Indian Ocean DeepwaterFishers Association). These measures cover their vessels or member States operatingin areas beyond national jurisdictions to address management and conservation on aninterim basis.
Despite the progress on improved management of these fisheries, there are manyaspects that are yet to be addressed before full implementation of the FAO InternationalGuidelines or the relevant UNGA resolutions can be achieved. An FAO workshop in2010 (FAO, 2011) identified different impediments to implementation of the guidelines.These barriers include: (i) support for the signature and ratification of RFMO/Aswhere they are in progress; (ii) specific assistance for developing countries in theimplementation of the FAO deep-sea guidelines; (iii) compilation of best practices anddevelopment of relevant guidance on impacts and risk assessment, encounter protocolsand related mitigation measures; (iv) facilitation of opportunities for discussions amongfishing 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 workon 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 theircontributions and review of the earlier version of the chapter.
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