A preliminary Investigation on Shelf Edge and Deepwater Fixed Net Fisheries to the West and North of Great Britain, Ireland, around Rockall and Hatton Bank.
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Since the mid-1990s, a fleet of up to 50 vessels have been conducting a gillnet fishery on the continental slopes to the West of the British Isles, North of Shetland, at Rockall and Hatton bank. These vessels, though mostly based in Spain are registered in the UK, Germany and other countries outside the EU such as Panama. The fishery is conducted in depths between 200 and 1200 meters, with the main target species being monkfish (200-800 m) and deepwater sharks (800-1200m). These fisheries are not well documented or understood and they seem to be largely unregulated, with little or no information on landings, catch composition and discards. Vessels currently participating in the fishery are reported to use up to 250 km of gear, and the nets are left fishing unattended and hauled every 3-10 days with trip lengths varying between 4 –8 weeks. The amount of fishing gear used in the fisheries, the lengths of the fleets, and the fact that the nets are unattended much of the time, make it very likely that a large quantity of nets are lost, while there is also evidence of illegal dumping of sheet netting. The long soak times in these fisheries result in a high proportion of the catches being unfit for human consumption. Keywords: Deepwater Shark Fisheries, Ghostfishing.