As a precautionary measure all bottom below 1000 meters depth is considered as a vulnerable habitat and thus covered by the regulation, which entered into force on 1 September 2011.
Prior to 1 September, it was allowed to fish with gears that are in contact with the bottom in these waters. Regular fishing is now prohibited. Only vessels with a special permit may commence fishing in the area after this date. Strict conditions apply and detailed plans for the exploratory fishery must be presented. Such plans shall contain descriptions on how damage to vulnerable marine ecosystems shall be avoided. Detailed reports on the fishing activities shall be sent to the authorities. An observer may be placed on board. The rules apply to all types of gear that may come in contact with the bottom. Fishing with bottom trawl as well as gill net and long line are thus covered.
Norway has taken the lead
The new rules offer protection to vulnerable bottom habitats in large parts of the Norwegian Sea. The protected area covers approximately 1 118 000 km2. Norway has taken the lead by adopting rules that offer the same protection to bottom habitats in a large part of the ocean covering waters both within and outside national jurisdiction. The different interest organisations of the fishing industry have been essential in the development of the regulation. Their contributions have been valuable and this type of cooperation is important in our work to further improve the sustainability of the Norwegian fisheries.
Protect from the adverse impacts of bottom fisheries
In 2006 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/105, which urges the world’s fishing states to take measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from the adverse impacts of bottom fisheries. The two regional fisheries management organizations of the North Atlantic, NEAFC and NAFO have both adopted measures in accordance with the UN resolution. Areas beyond national jurisdiction in the Norwegian Sea, 318 000 km2, are therefore covered. The new Norwegian regulations builds upon these measures, and it offers protection to vulnerable habitats in shallower waters as well.
Obligation to report incidents
As of 1 September all fishing vessel have to keep track of all possible encounters with vulnerable habitats for each fishing operation, on a haul by haul basis. More than 60 kilos of live coral or 800 kilos of live sponges leads to an obligation to report the incident and move on to other fishing grounds at least 2 nautical miles away.
Vulnerable marine habitats may be found many places and we need further knowledge about their locations. The new rules will give us more knowledge and the habitats will be better protected through the move on provision. Knowledge will be made available to the vessel masters.