Phuket, Thailand, 25-29 June 2018 - The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) has declared five new Protected Areas in the high seas at its 5th Meeting of the Parties (MoP5). These closures apply only to bottom trawling and do not cover other fishing gear such as bottom long lining and trap fisheries which, nevertheless, will have the obligation to have observers on board 100% of the time, if fishing in the designated areas.
This decision follows the minimal expectation and the observers, as well as some parties to SIOFA, regret that a stronger measure couldn’t be adopted by setting full closures.
The protected sites are: Atlantis Bank, Coral, Fool’s Flat, Middle of What and Walters Shoal all of them being important features of the ocean floor for biodiversity - such as banks or seamounts - and covering an area of over 25,000 square kilometres.
This new move towards a network of MPAs in the high seas is the result of long-term collaboration between the governments, IUCN and the fisheries sector in the region.
IUCN and SIODFA (South Indian Ocean Deep-sea Fisheries Association) signed a MoU in 2009 to strengthen collaboration in identifying and promoting Benthic Protected Areas. Furthermore, the French government through the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) funded an IUCN research and governance orientated project about seamounts in the South West Indian Ocean which identified and documented seamounts to be protected.