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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 56

Edited by A. G. Hopper, Sea Fish Industry Authority, Hull (U.K.)

Ocean sciences are a little more than 100 years old but although we have made great advances in physical oceanography and ocean climatology and the ocean floor has been almost entirely mapped by acoustic methods, we still have very little knowledge about the biological resources of the deep ocean.

In the next century and well beyond we can confidently expect greater exploitation of all the oceans resources and especially on the slopes of the great oceanic basins of the world. Have we the knowledge to do this safely without damaging one of the last great natural resources of this planet?

This book (NATO ASI SERIES E296) is a compilation of the papers presented at a NATO Workshop in Hull, England, in March 1994 and assesses what is known about the fish resources and fisheries in the deep water (circa 500 to 2000m) mainly on the oceanic slope of the North Atlantic.

Most of the fish stocks discussed in this book are regarded as virgin or accumulated stocks. With a few exceptions they have not yet been modified by fishing activities as is the case with most stocks found on the continental shelf. They are entirely different from the shelf stocks. Many are slow growing with low inherent productivity and the scientists at the Workshop agreed that an all out and ill-considered exploitation of these deep water fisheries will put them at risk.

The first significant commercial fisheries were started in the 1960's by Russian factory trawlers targeting the roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris) and the Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) and by the 1990's most European and North American nations were involved in deep water fisheries to a limited extent. The Workshop identified two major barriers to rapid development : lack of market demand for unfamiliar fish species and the high cost and largely undeveloped technology for fishing in depths below 1000m. One of the most important existing commercial deep water fisheries is the New Zealand orange roughy fishery. The rapid development and subsequent depletion of these resources was held up as a lesson in the dangers of moving too quickly without sufficient scientific understanding of the dynamics of the fish stocks and their biology.

It seems inevitable that commercial necessity will lead to the exploitation of oceanic deep water resources in the next century but there is much to be done to devise a sensible programme. The Workshop identified 45 areas of research and development and planning activities which could well be achieved by international effort in this important field of environmental science. Some of these could be topics for future NATO ASI publications.
Reference books: A248, E169, E189, E201, E296

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