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

[...] 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).


In 2017, ICES held a series of workshops (WKBENTH, WKSTAKE, 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.

Stakeholder involvement
Now, in 2021, the EU has requested ICES to advise on a set of management options to reduce the impact of mobile bottom contacting fishing gears on seafloor habitats, and for each option provide a trade-off analysis between fisheries and seafloor quality.

To ensure the analysis of all relevant management options, ICES invited stakeholders to participate in the first WKTRADE3 workshop, held online in March, to review management options on whether the trade-off analysis is informative, if useful outputs were produced, and what is needed to make informed decisions.


(PM ICES, gekürzt)

Workshops results can be found here: