A SERIES of green groups have united to demand that Spain stops the destruction of vulnerable ocean ecosystems by deep-sea fishing.
Greenpeace, WWF, The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and a series of other environmental groups have launched a petition to coincide with current EU negotiations in Brussels.
Spain is the main fishing nation in the north east Atlantic Ocean, accounting for half of the European catch of deep-sea species.
It comes as pressure grows on Brussels to reform the current regulations for deep-sea fishing, which have failed to protect the fragile ecosystems over the last 10 years.
Deep-sea bottom trawling drags fishing gear along the ocean floor, destroying corals and sponges.
The environments in which the fishing is carried out – between 200 and 1500m below sea level – are characterised by their extreme conditions.
Cold temperatures, a lack of nutrients and near total darkness mean the environments are inhabited by unique organisms that grow slowly and produce few offspring, and are therefore extremely vulnerable to human impact.
To make matters worse it is claimed that up to 80% of the caught fish – so called ‘bycatch’ – is thrown back into the sea by the fishing fleets.
The petition is demanding the a ban on bottom trawling nets, the implementation of catch limits, and for deep-sea fishing to be scientifically monitored.