Published 12 November 2009


Deepwater set gillnets banned in the South Pacific Ocean

Auckland, New Zealand, 14th November 2009—A ban on the use of deepwater set gillnets was announced today at the close of a meeting to establish a regional fisheries management organization that will have legally-binding control over fishing in the South Pacific Ocean.

Map of approximate area where deepwater gillnets have been banned on the high seas © TRAFFIC  

Deepwater gillnets impact heavily on vulnerable species such as sharks, many of them already in marked decline through overfishing. 

An added danger is that of “ghost fishing”, caused through lost or discarded fishing gear continuing to catch fish that are never landed.

Last week, TRAFFIC wrote to the fledgling South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) to express deep concern over a claim by Spain that two of its vessels, which had been setting deepwater gillnets up to 2 km underwater in seas off Australia’s Lord Howe Island and elsewhere did not present a serious impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). 

Earlier this week Australia revealed it had confiscated a huge 130 km long gillnet set 1.5 km deep in Antarctic waters in the south-western Indian Ocean where the use of such nets is already banned, and proposed a ban on their use in the South Pacific also. 

“TRAFFIC welcomes the leadership shown by Australia in championing a ban on the use of deepwater gillnets in the South Pacific Ocean and congratulate the more than 20 countries who agreed to it,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader. 

“We need to see more championing of conservation issues out onto the high seas; it is precisely what we expect from responsible fisheries management, and this ban represents a welcome start for this newly created fisheries management body.”

“Steps to stamp out unsustainable fishing practices are vital to shorten the leash of high seas fleets that continue to roam the oceans looking to target what they can. Short term financial gain with long-term damage to the health of our oceans is a deadly combination—and it has to stop.” 

The European Commission plus several regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and just last month, the South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO) have already banned or severely restricted the use of deepwater gillnets.