Released today, the advice sees an ICES review of new evidence for the occurrence of vulnerable marine ecosystems – deep-sea habitats such as cold-water coral reefs and clusters of deep-sea sponges that are particularly susceptible to bottom-contact fishing gear – across the Regulatory Area of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). In line with earlier years, the advice states that while most bottom fishing takes place within NEAFC fishing areas, there is some evidence of activity within areas closed to protect vulnerable habitats as well as outside fishing areas on the Hatton and Rockall banks.
The data forming the backbone of the advice were derived from a central portal launched in February this year and are presented on a new map, currently available as a beta version. The hub contains data which show the distribution and abundance of these vulnerable ecosystems, records for which there is clear evidence for a VME, and indicators, animals and plants whose occurrence suggests the presence of this type of ecosystem to varying degrees of certainty.
Almost 500 new records which indicate the presence of VMEs were submitted to ICES in 2015, about a third of which fell within the NEAFC area. This new information, alongside existing database records, was evaluated at a workshop earlier in the year.
Ultimately the advice is consistent with previous years, with ICES recommending no changes to fisheries management based on the new records.
A coral garden VME on Anton Dohrn seamount. Photo by Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), UK, 2009.