In a remarkable effort to protect its waters, the Portuguese government issued a decree prohibiting deep-sea fishing in an area spanning 2,280,000 square kilometers. Even though the decree exempts longlining, which is authorized under certain conditions, it is an immensely significant step in protecting deep-sea species and ecosystems. In total, the area now closed to destructive fishing methods is four times larger than the Iberian Peninsula. Oceana applauds this decision, and also urges that the ban be extended to the EU’s entire fleet and internationally.
“Portugal has made a significant step to ensure that its fleet is exploiting deep-sea ecosystems sustainably. We hope that this measure, which will affect an area four times the size of the Iberian Peninsula, inspires other countries with fishing interests in the area to adopt similar bans,” says Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe, in a press release. “Portugal should take it a step further by banning bottom trawling and other forms of destructive fishing in waters where they are more commonly used, and adopting several other conservation measures.”
Portugal’s decree will also help build the information database on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems by requiring collection of samples of accidentally captured corals and sponges. These ecosystems play a critical role in providing breeding, feeding, and sheltering grounds for many organisms, but they are particularly sensitive to the impacts of fishing, especially trawling. Thanks to this decree and the measures taken by the Portuguese government, deep-sea ecosystems and the species that depend on them will now have the chance to recover.