The High Seas (a.k.a. ABNJ) is a topic I have boarded a few times in the past, and is part of my ever expanding "interest list". A good discussion on “Closing the High Seas” was posted by the CFOOD (Collaborative for Food from Our Oceans Data) page. CFOOD are the loose network of scientists who work together to better understand the science of fisheries sustainability, The group includes some heavy weight scientists like Ray Hilborn, Kevern Cochrane (former FAO colleague), Ana Parma and others.
I have shared CFOOD work before, as it is always thought provoking and in some cases quite controversial. Controversy and critical thinking are vital in fisheries, where uncertainty is a tool, not an excuse.
The discussion collected opinions of diverse range of people that is really experienced including some I know personally and respect a lot, like Sydney Holt, John Hampton, Bubba Cook and Petri Suuronen
The discussion ins centered around 4 areas:
- Should we close the high seas to fishing?
- Motivations for closing the high seas
- Closing the high seas – potential implications and outcomes
- Alternatives to closing the high seas – other potential strategies and outcomes
I let you read the discussion by your self by clicking on the links above, I just quote the closing comments;
Resolving the issue of whether or not to close the high seas to fishing is mostly about politics. To quote Otto van Bismarck, “politics is the art of the possible.” “Any advancements here will involve that art and not just science,” says George Rose. “I believe that a complete closure is not possible, and in some cases where reasonable management is in place not advisable, for the many reasons stated in the comments.
Nonetheless, there are many ocean areas where a moratorium as suggested by Holt makes sense – at a minimum to draw attention to uncontrolled fisheries and lack of any science or even basic information. This approach would rely on spatially based categorization of the HS into management areas, much as suggested by Chris Costello, with some areas having controlled fishing with gear restrictions and others with no fishing (I see no future in an open category except as a throw-away).
Having fishing industry involved in this would be necessary for this to have any chance of being effective. There are examples of this approach that have been very effective at smaller coastal scales.
Accomplishing this would be difficult enough politically and involve a major international effort but setting complete closure goals that are impossible to achieve and of questionable merit only muddies the waters.