Fuel subsidies feed marine ecology disaster: scientists

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 17, 2007 (AFP) – An international team of marine experts on Saturday called for an immediate ban on fuel subsidies to deep-sea fishing “bandits” blamed for plundering stocks and ravaging undersea ecosystems. The grouping of leading fisheries economists, biologists and ecologists said governments around the world were indirectly funding the destruction of fragile ecosystems by routinely paying millions of dollars in fuel subsidies.

“Industrial fisheries are now going thousands of miles, thousands of feet deep and catching things that live hundreds of years in the process,” said Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

Boats operating beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones of coastal countries were virtually unregulated, the statement released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting said.

“Here fishing fleets operate like roving bandits, using state-of-the-art technologies to plunder the depths,” it added.

The statement said deep-water trawlers could destroy in a matter of hours coral and sponge beds that have taken centuries or millennia to grow.

Long-lived, slow-growing and late-maturing fish such as orange roughy an