May 07, 2008 19:22 ET

NAFO Commits to Crucial Next Steps to Protect Vulnerable Marine Species and Habitats Off Newfoundland's Grand Banks by January 2009: WWF-Canada

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - May 7, 2008) - WWF-Canada recognizes the significance of decisions made by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and its 13 contracting parties at its Intersessional Meeting in Montreal this week. All parties agreed to adopt an ambitious but achievable plan to protect vulnerable marine species and habitats, including coldwater coral forests, by December 2008.

"The plan adopted at the meetings in Montreal brings us one step closer to setting the severely depleted Grand Banks on a path to recovery", said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice President Atlantic, WWF-Canada. "We acknowledge the strong level of cooperation among all the contracting parties."

In 2006, fishing nations from around the world agreed to implement the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries (61/105), which calls on high seas fishing nations and regional fisheries management organizations, such as NAFO, to identify and protect vulnerable species and habitats by December 31, 2008.

Since that time, WWF and other environmental groups have been lobbying NAFO to follow through on its commitment to protect these species and habitats to ensure the long-term health of our oceans.

In order to successfully implement the plan by December 2008, the contracting parties must continue the resolve and cooperation shown at this meeting.

"Now that NAFO has agreed to a plan for assessing the impacts of bottom fishing and protecting vulnerable areas in the high seas, NAFO must maintain momentum leading up to the Annual Meeting in September", concluded Rangeley. "The only way to meet the tight deadline of protecting these areas by December 2008 is to ensure vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are identified and fisheries impact assessments are completed in advance of the Annual Meeting in Spain. It will be critical to continue progress on both these areas at the NAFO Scientific Council meetings being held in Halifax at the end of May and again in June."

This news release and associated materials can be found on wwf.ca.

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