Research Document - 2011/009
Encounter Protocols for Avoidance of Harm to Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems: A global review of experience to 2010
By T.J. Kenchington
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 61/105, of 2006, called for Regional Fishery Management Organizations to develop protocols requiring fishing vessels to move away after encounters with Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) in the high seas. A global review of responses to that demand, through to the end of 2010, is presented. Throughout the Atlantic, Indian and North Pacific oceans, the principal protocols are variants of one originally adopted by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) in 2008. Quite different protocols have been developed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), for longliners fishing in the Southern Ocean, and by New Zealand, for its trawlers when fishing in the South Pacific. None of these protocols are intended as stand-alone measures to protect VMEs. Rather, they are “back stops” to long-term closures. To date, each protocol has been adopted only as an interim measure, pending further development. None can be said to be efficient or even effective. Indeed, each may prove to be counter-productive, causing increased harm to VME by displacing fishing effort away from long-impacted areas. None are rigorously science-based but all can be regarded as pragmatic responses to the UNGA Resolution.
Suggestions are offered for the development of more effective encounter protocols, though those would have to be specific to particular fisheries. They would demand considerable research and still would not offer full protection to VMEs – which protection requires avoidance of encounters, not a response to them.
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