A fleet of barely 20 fishing vessels manages to discard each year between 2,000 and 15,000 tonnes of anglerfish, generate more than 1,000 kilos of waste and “ghost nets” and overexploit stocks of anglerfish, deep-sea red crab and deep-sea sharks.
Every day, more than 6,000 kilometres of fixed gillnets (known as rasco) are deployed in the waters of the North East Atlantic to catch anglerfish, deep-sea red crab and deep-sea sharks. This fishery takes place from the coasts of Norway to the United Kingdom and Ireland and in international waters, and in barely a decade has caused serious damage to the marine ecosystem.
A single vessel can use up to 400 kilometres of net, which is 36 times the size of nets permitted in Spain. This volume is far higher than what a fishing boat can efficiently handle, so part of them end up being lost at sea, generating more than 1,000 kilos of waste and “ghost nets” a year.
The poor selectivity of these nets, along with the length of time they are left in the water, means that many of the creatures caught in them have rotted or are in a poor state when they are brought in. This results in up to 71% of anglerfish catches having to be discarded.
ICES has voiced concern about the state of some of the species caught by this fleet, even calling for the closure of deep-sea shark fisheries, particularly those of Portuguese dogfish and leafscale gulper shark, which are currently on the verge of collapse.
The main target species of this fishery is not in a good state either, because the anglerfish quotas recommended by scientists have been ignored repeatedly by politicians, particularly in the last three years, when a far higher quantity of anglerfish has been caught than what is permitted and regarded as sustainable.
The vast majority of vessels operating in this area are flying the flags of the United Kingdom and Germany, although some of them use flags of convenience from Panama, Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis. However, many of them belong to Galician companies and land their catches in the port of La Coruña.
The recent meeting of NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) adopted an interim prohibition for gillnetting in waters below 200 metres, and the EU has stated that it will close the fishery.
Based on a study named The Use of ‘Rasco’ Gillnets in the Anglerfish, King Crab and Deep-Sea Sharks Fisheries in the North-East Atlantic, Oceana calls for the EU to change words to action quickly and for this fishery to be closed and to remain closed until permanent measures are agreed that ensure that this fishery is managed sustainably.