Friday, December 21, 2012

Chile: First Country to Protect All Seamounts from Bottom Trawling

Oceana welcomes the historic reform of the Chilean Fisheries Law passed by the Chilean Congress. The law bans bottom trawling in the country's vulnerable marine ecosystems, including the precautionary closure of all seamounts in Chile, establishes a system in which all fishing quotas will be based on scientific recommendation, and requires the implementation of reduction plans for bycatch and discards for every commercial fishery.

"We are happy that this new law includes the tools needed to establish sustainable fisheries management in Chile; but what's most important is that as a result of this long debate, we have come to understand, as a country, one of our great missions is to recover our overexploited fisheries," stated Oceana's Executive Director in Chile, Alex Munoz.

The new law bans bottom trawling in all vulnerable marine ecosystems and includes the immediate closure of all 118 of Chile's seamounts to the destructive practice of bottom trawling, covering an area of 150,000 square kilometers. Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges where nutrient-rich water upwells from the deep, fueling an explosion of life. These areas are especially vulnerable to trawling.

In 2009, Oceana proposed that the Chilean Congress act to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from bottom trawling, including all seamounts. This proposal ultimately became part of the extensive reform to the Chilean Fisheries Law that has been working its way through the Chilean Congress for more than a year. The changes to the Chilean Fisheries Law are the strongest regulation for destructive bottom trawling that has ever been passed in Chile.

Along with the protection of vulnerable habitat, the Chilean Congress also voted to overhaul how it sets quotas for its fisheries. Rather than rely on the commercial fishing industry to set its own catch limits, as had been the practice, regulators will set catch limits based on the best scientific recommendations moving forward. Oceana first suggested these reforms to the Chilean government in 2010 after revealing that the fishing quotas for three of Chile's major fisheries, hake, jack mackerel and anchovy, had far exceeded scientific recommendations during the previous decade -- in the case of hake, by 193 percent.

"We are celebrating this great victory for the oceans, but there is more work to be done. Now we must ensure that the government implements these new regulations so that our fisheries can once again support the many Chilean people who depend on them," concluded Munoz.

Source: PR Newswire

Photo courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)