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A large portion of deep-sea high seas catch is taken in the North Atlantic where vessels will typically target a range of fish species such as ling (Molva dypterygia), Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris), black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo), a few species of sharks and more recently exploited species such as Baird’s slickhead (Alepocephalus bairdii) and deep-sea red crab (Chaceon affinis). The majority of deep-sea fisheries in this area involve bottom trawlers, which may operate mid-water trawls as well, but longliners are also present in smaller numbers.

In other regions the vessels target a much more limited number of species. In the Southern Ocean, for example, fisheries are in mainly using longlines to catch toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides and D. mawsoni).

In the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, many of the bottom fisheries take place over rough geological features (e.g. seamounts and ridges). Bottom trawling for orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is generally done as aimed-trawling. Mid-water trawlers, which may operate nets close to the seabed, mainly target alfonsino (Beryx splendens). Longliners in the South Pacific typically target species such as hapuka (Polyprion spp), bluenose warehou (Hyperoglyphe antarctica) and morwongs (Nemadactylus spp).


Some vessels involved in deep-sea fisheries in the high seas may fish exclusively in the high seas, but others also operate within exclusive economic zones during the course of the year, either in deep seas or in shallower waters. Most vessels target several species throughout the year and some regularly change fishing gear.

FAO collects data and publishes information on vessels authorized to fish in deep-sea fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction. For detailed information visit the DSF authorized vessel dynamic web site FAO Fishing Vessels Finder (FVF) - more about

Gear types

Longlines, bottom trawls, mid-water trawls, gillnets and traps/pots are used to capture deep-sea aquatic resources.

Trawling is the predominant bottom fishing method, representing nearly 70 percent of vessels in the high seas, according to a 2006 estimate. Some fisheries, such as those for orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) generally use advanced technology for fish detection and net monitoring. These fisheries are referred to as aimed trawling fisheries, which are fisheries in which where the trawl gear is ‘aimed’ at a specific area or group of species and may only make contact with the bottom in short intervals while other deep-sea trawl fisheries require the trawl to make bottom contact for several hours.

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