Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Scientists’ Statement to the United Nations General Assembly regarding Progress made in Protecting Vulnerable Deep Sea Ecosystems

We the under-signed marine scientists and practitioners,

Recognizing previous statements made by scientists and practitioners to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) highlighting concern regarding the damaging effects of bottom fishing on deep-sea and high seas ecosystems, particularly coral and sponge communities as well as seamounts, including inter alia: Scientists’ Statement on Protecting the World’s Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems, signed by 1452 experts, submitted in 2006; and Statement of concern to the United Nations General Assembly regarding the risks to seamounts, cold-water corals, and other vulnerable ecosystems of the deep-sea, signed by 142 experts and submitted in 2003;

Heartened by the steps taken by the UNGA to date to address this serious issue, particularly the 2006 Resolution 61/105, and the review this year of its implementation;

Encouraged by site-specific fisheries closures taken to protect some vulnerable features in some regions, particularly the northeast Atlantic, northwest Atlantic, and southeast Pacific regions;

Encouragedalso by some precautionary measures taken in the Southern Ocean, depth restrictions in the Mediterranean and northwest Atlantic, and the “frozen footprint” in the south Pacific;

Remain concerned nonetheless by the inadequate responses of flag states and regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to the scientific requirements of UNGA Resolution 61/105 to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from the effects of bottom fishing activities, namely:

§83a) no comprehensive assessments of the effects of individual bottom fishing activities have occurred; effects of bottom fishing are well documented in the scientific literature, but they have not been taken into account and hence are not being managed to prevent significant adverse impacts;

§83b) no comprehensive scientific assessments of VMEs have taken place in any region; and only limited steps have been taken to improve scientific research, data collection and sharing;

§83c) most VMEs remain unprotected despite the availability of scientific information indicating their occurrence or likely occurrence; and, due to the lack of regional VME assessments, it is likely that those closures that have been adopted, though commendable, are insufficient;

§83d) science-based encounter rules have not yet been put in place to define an encounter with a VME and when fishing activities should stop; furthermore, for the northwest and northeast Atlantic, the provisional rule (100kg live corals or 1000kg live sponges) appears arbitrary, is not science-based, and is so large as to undermine the goal of Resolution 61/105;

Therefore conclude that science-based measures supporting §83 of Resolution 61/105 have not yet been implemented in the time provided, and therefore recommend that flag states and RFMOs cease to authorize fishing vessels to conduct bottom fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction (as per §86) until such time that Resolution 61/105, especially §83, is demonstratively implemented using the best available science.


The UN Resolution 61/105, referred to in this letter, can be viewed here...



  1. Elliott Norse, Ph.D., Marine Conservation Biology Institute, USA
  2. Jeff Ardron, M.S., Marine Conservation Biology Institute, USA
  3. Cindy Van Dover, Ph.D., Duke University, USA
  4. Daniel Pauly, Habilitation, UBC Fisheries Centre, Canada
  5. Craig Smith, Ph.D., University of Hawaii, USA
  6. Chuck Fisher, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, USA
  7. Les Watling, Ph.D., The University of Hawaii, USA
  8. Sylvia Earle, Ph.D., National Geographic, USA
  9. Stuart Pimm, Ph.D., Duke University, USA
  10. Peter Auster, Ph.D., University of Connecticut, USA
  11. Jason Hall-Spencer, Ph.D., University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
  12. J. Frederick Grassle, Ph.D., Rutgers University, USA
  13. Fiorenza Micheli, Ph.D., Stanford University, USA
  14. Alberto Lindner, Ph.D., Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil
  15. Robert T. Paine, Ph.D., University of Washington Seattle, USA
  16. Mark Hixon, Ph.D., Oregon State University, US
  17. Boris Worm, Ph.D., Dalhousie University, Canda
  18. Alex David Rogers, Ph.D., Zoological Society of London, United Kingdom
  19. To view the full list of signatures, updated weekly, click here.


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Lean More:

Scientists’ Statement to the United Nations General Assembly regarding Progress made in Protecting Vulnerable Deep Sea Ecosystems (pdf)


UN Res. 61/105


Read the cover letter (pdf): Invitation to endorse the attached letter to the UN General Assembly regarding progress made in the protection of deep sea ecosystems


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