An ICES workshop examined reducing the impact of mobile bottom-contacting fishing gears on seafloor habitats

An ICES workshop examined reducing the impact of mobile bottom-contacting fishing gears on seafloor habitats

A recent ICES workshop invited stakeholders to provide feedback on the trade-off analysis between fisheries and the seafloor.

“The interconnectivity of all marine life through the food web means that every management action will have an effect to some degree on every part of the system. So measures designed to mitigate impacts on seabed integrity can be expected to have indirect effects elsewhere in the food web, even on top-predators.” – Report of the Workshop to evaluate tradeoffs between the impact on seafloor habitats and provisions of catch/value WKTRADE, 2017

There are many different types of seafloor throughout the oceans which provide habitats for many marine species that live above, on, or in the seafloor.

Human activities can result in increased pressure on the seafloor: mining, extraction and dredging, coastal and offshore infrastructure, introduction of non-indigenous species, pollution, fishing and aquaculture practices.

Over the past five years, ICES has been carrying out a stepwise process to deliver guidance on seafloor integrity for Descriptor 6 of the European Commission’s (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

“Because bottom-contact fishing provides a major source of physical disturbance to the seabed around Europe, it affects many seabed habitats and is therefore a major pressure that needs to be addressed in order for Member States to achieve good environmental status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive” says David Connor, Policy Officer, EU Directorate-General for the Environment.

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In 2017, ICES held a series of workshops (WKBENTHWKSTAKE, and WKTRADE) to address an advice request from the European Commission to evaluate indicators for assessing pressure and impact on the seafloor from one human pressure – mobile bottom-contacting fishing – and demonstrate trade-offs in catch/value of landings relative to impacts and recovery potential of the seafloor. Methods for assessing seafloor impact from mobile bottom-contacting fishing gears were developed and from an ecosystem-based fisheries management perspective, these methods can also be used to inform managers about the interlinkages, and therefore trade-offs, between seafloor impacts and the socio-economic value from the fisheries.

The resulting advice indicated that a large fraction of landings and revenue from bottom fisheries are obtained from a relatively small part of the area fished in the North Sea. This finding underscores a potential management option that reduces fishing impacts on the seabed with a relatively small cost to the fisheries.

In 2019, WKTRADE 2 advised on best practices to better reflect bio-economic cost and benefit tradeoffs and outlined progression towards potential management options which fully account for the socio-economic value of fisheries as well as the consequences of effort mitigation measures.

To read the full report click here.

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Reducing the impact of mobile bottom-contacting fishing gears on seafloor habitats

by editor time to read: 7 min