Quota systems such as those used in commercial fisheries in Iceland, may be a valid scheme for regulating fishing activities on or around cold-water reefs (Foley et al., 2010). Some have criticised quotas for the inability to prevent stock collapses and concern that habitats like cold-water coral reefs will not be able to recover in time for a positive impact (Roberts, 2002). Yet quotas have significant bonuses in the form of increasing stewardship and aiding the enforcement of gear modifications that allow fishing to continue, in order to prevent substantial socio-economic impacts (Armstrong and Van den Hove, 2008; Foley et al., 2010).
Ultimately, the protection of cold-water coral reefs is undermined by the importance of legislation. Legislation controls the use and management of resources and deep-sea environments are accessible to all users under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (United Nations, 1982). As exploitation has expanded further into the deep-sea over the last decade, other legislative groups were introduced under UNCLOS. These include the High Seas Working Group on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of the World Conservation Union which endeavours to locate and promote the conservation of deep-sea habitats, such as cold-water reefs (Probert, 1999; High Seas Conservation, undated). Legislation has been used to great affect for the protection of numerous cold-water coral reefs throughout the work. The closures of the Oculina bank HAPC under The Magnuson-Steven’s Act (Reed, 2002), and the Darwin Mounds under the EU Habitats Directive (De Santo and Jones, 2007), represent significant leaps in global protection. The legalities controlling exploitation are however complicated by the nature of these habitats: offshore, multi-user and outside the jurisdiction of a single country (Davies et al., 2007). These issues will need to be addressed within future conservation efforts.