ICES/NAFO Joint Working Group on Deep-water Ecology (WGDEC)
The joint ICES/NAFO Working Group on Deep-water Ecology (WGDEC) collates new information and maps the distribution of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) for use in annual ICES advisory processes. This information assists the development of new methods/techniques to further our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and informs the implementation of man-agement tools to afford the protection of VMEs.
In 2022, 690 new VME presence records and 154 absence records were accepted into the ICES VME database. The VME Data Quality Assurance (QA) sub-group conducted the quality control and review of new data submissions in advance of the working group meeting, allowing resubmission by data providers. The group also provided recommendations for the continued improvement to the VME data call and submission process.
All new QA’ed data and outputs of the VME Weighting algorithm, displaying the likelihood of VME presence (VME Index), were mapped to support ICES in providing advice on the distribution of VMEs in the North Atlantic. VMS data from NEAFC was analysed by the Working Group on Spatial Fisheries Data (WGSFD), and outputs were used by WGDEC to assess whether fishing activity was occurring in the vicinity of VMEs in the NEAFC Convention Area.
Another aim of this year’s meeting was to follow the procedure documented by WKVMEBM 2022 to provide updated information of areas where VMEs are known to occur or are likely to occur, bottom fishing footprint, and depth limits in EU waters in relation to the EU deep-sea access regulations. The working group also reviewed the evidence base within the NEAFC Regulatory Area and provided advice on existing NEAFC bottom fishing closures.
Further to this work, WGDEC drafted ecoregion-specific assessments, following procedures documented by WKVMEBM 2022. The WG identified a set of information that should be included in the assessment template for reporting on VMES.
Finally, the WG considered the outcome of WKVMEBM 2022 in relation to the use of predictive habitat models. In line with the benchmark outputs, WGDEC recommends the implementation of an annual intersessional working group to evaluate and implement suitable modelling approaches to support future ICES technical advice.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee