Orange Roughy Fishery. Image courtesy of Malcolm Clark, NIWA, NZ

Standing stocks and production of many biological resources in the more easily accessible areas of the ocean (above 200 meters) have decreased in the last half-century due to overharvesting and cumulative habitat degradation. In an effort to find more exploitable resources, fisheries have extended into deep-ocean habitats, often beyond national jurisdiction. Advances in technology have enabled increasing access to deep-ocean fish populations, often before adequate science-based management plans are considered or implemented. The effects in some cases (e.g., orange roughy) have been catastrophic. In addition, deep-ocean fisheries have severely impacted seamount and cold-water coral habitats.

This working group will act to coordinate planning across multiple management regimes, and promote a precautionary approach to deep-ocean management implemented via international cooperation, which is critically needed as the demand for deep-ocean biological resources increases.   Key questions to be addressed include recovery from disturbance, mismatch between scale of studies and impacts, whether one set of VMEs can be applied across biomes, identification of trends and knowledge gaps in deep-sea fisheries and stocks, differentiating between natural variability and human impacts, managing MPA benefit expectation, monitoring, management settling precedents and cross linkage with mining.

 Working Group Activities (Planned):

  1. Setting standards for high quality, robust and comprehensive impact studies/EIAs and establishing protocols and decision frameworks for indicator selections and designs related to fisheries impact questions
  2. Advising regional fishery management organization (RFMOs) on ecosystem-wide consequences of deep-sea fishing
  3. Evaluating implementation of UNGA resolutions and developing recommendations to RFMSs for improving performance
  4. Comparing and contrasting benefits and impacts of small-scale deep-sea fisheries compared to industrial fisheries
  5. Providing independent scientific advice on all aspects of deep-sea management (e.g. MPA design and implementation, gear types, trophic-level interactions)
  6. Promoting systematic conservation planning
  7. Prepare a database of deep-ocean, pelagic and bottom trawling impact studies
  8. Review the environmental impact assessments for deep-ocean bottom fisheries on the high seas.
  9. Collect life history data to determine actual longevity of ocean fish.
  10. Recognizing the robust scientific evidence of the destructive nature of bottom trawling, conduct research and provide expert analytical support to efforts aimed at eliminating this destructive practice worldwide.
  11. Prepare a history of deep-ocean fishing for publication.
  12. Work with responsible parties to refine definitions and understand distributions of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

If you are interested in participating in this working group, please contact WG Leads: Matt Gianni (, Les Watling ( and Claire Nouvian (