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Int'l Fish Conservation Bodies Ban Ocean Bottom Dragnet Fishing


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Int'l fish conservation bodies ban ocean bottom dragnet fishing

(Kyodo) _ Two international fisheries-resources conversation bodies have decided to provisionally ban dragnet fishing in deep ocean waters surrounding Antarctica and in the northwestern Atlantic, Japanese officials said.

The bans were imposed in light of scientists' warnings that bottom trawling has disrupted oceanic ecosystems, according to the officials who are familiar with recent discussions at the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

In 2004, over 1,100 scientists from 70 countries, including Japan, called for a provisional ban on bottom trawling.

Bottom trawling refers to a method of fishing involving boats pulling large nets at a depth of 500 meters to 2,000 meters. Most dragnet fishermen, including those from European nations, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, have been using this method in recent years.

Members of both the CCAMLR and NAFO agreed unanimously to impose the bans, which come into force with immediate effect, the officials said. The CCAMLR comprises 24 countries and organizations, and NAFO 13 countries and regions.

The bans cover nearly the entire area of the Antarctic Sea as well as four areas in the northwestern Atlantic, including one surrounding an undersea mountain off Canada's Newfoundland, they said.

In addition, the two bodies decided to prohibit catches of sharks and some other fish to protect stocks from depletion, they said.

It is rare for an international body in charge of conserving maritime resources to produce an agreement of this sort concerning fishing activities in open seas.

The decisions indicate that the international community is putting greater emphasis on efforts to conserve maritime resources.

The member states of the United Nations, whose plenary session is currently under way, are also deliberating on proposals to regulate deep-sea trawling.

Encouraged by the two multilateral bodies' decisions, the U.N. session may come up with even more stringent regulatory steps, the officials said.

The CCAMLR, which wrapped up its latest session in Australia on Nov. 3, decided to impose the ban on bottom trawling around Antarctica for the period to 2009.

The body also decided to ask its Scientific Committee to conduct an investigation into the matter with an eye to having the panel deliberate in 2009 on whether to extend the ban, they said.

NAFO decided at its September meeting in Canada to provisionally ban commercial fishing in the areas surrounding four undersea mountains in the northwestern Atlantic, the officials said.

NAFO members will hold talks on whether to continue the ban at a meeting slated for 2010 after members conduct research on the effects of fishing on the state of living creatures in the areas surrounding the undersea mountains, they said. The effects of bottom trawling will also be examined.

An official at Japan's Fisheries Agency said the Japanese government has endorsed the recent decisions by the two international bodies as they called for only provisional bans.

But the official cautioned, "We are opposed to banning trawling without having scientific grounds."

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