Marine scientist says Australia's blobfish faces extinction

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010 File:Blobfish.jpg

The blobfish
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Callum Roberts, a marine scientist with the Universtiy of York, has said he believes the blobfish to face extinction. The foot-long creature is under threat by bottom fishing trawlers off the southeastern Australian coast.

"The Australian and New Zealand deep trawling fishing fleets are some of the most active in the world so if you are a blobfish then it is not a good place to be," said Roberts. The blobfish has never been observed outside of this small patch of ocean.

Blobfish, which are gelatinous, are rarely seen by humans owing to the depths they live at, going down as far as 800 metres. However, this area is shared by edible species such as crabs and lobsters and trawlers come in search of these. Inedible blobfish are dragged up with them.

Roberts, author of The Unnatural History of the Sea, explains that deep trawling is one of the world's most destructive forms of fishing. He said that trawlers had destroyed large swathes of ocean at the 200 metre mark and were now "mov[ing] off those continental shelves and into the deep sea in areas a couple of thousand metres deep." He described this as overfishing.

He went on to express concern for the worldwide effect of deep trawling, saying that the area of deep sea explored is "about the size of Paris, [deep seas]'s a really unexplored area, but we could be destroying it."

He explained that previous efforts had been made to pass international law introducing regulations on deep trawling. "In 2006 conservationists came very close to achieving a global moratorium on restricting bottom trawling on the high seas." Although activists "came within a whisker of that" they were thwarted by "Iceland [who] rejected it so the United Nations was charged with protecting the deep sea species."

Roberts said that "Blobfish are very vulnerable to being dragged up in these nets." The Daily Telegraph described the blobfish as "the world's most miserable-looking fish," and commented that the creature "ha[s] plenty to be miserable about."