Working Group on Fisheries Benthic Impact and Trade-offs (WGFBIT; outputs from 2021 meeting)
The Working Group on Fisheries Benthic Impact and Trade-offs (WGFBIT) develops methods and performs assessments to evaluate benthic impact from fisheries at regional scale, while considering fisheries and seabed impact trade-offs.
In this report, new fishery benthic impact assessments are carried out for several sub-regions in the Mediterranean (Greek waters, South Adriatic Sea, Sicily waters). For other regions, updates of the whole assessment or specific steps only were presented. A standard advice sheet for the regional benthic assessments, intended as input to the next generation of the ICES Ecosystem and Fisheries Overviews, was finalised and compiled for some regions as example (Greek waters, Baltic Sea). A validation of the longevity relationships using new data was executed for the Kattegat area and the Southern North Sea. In relation to the methodology, some recommendations were formulated concerning the update on depletion rates, the use of epifauna- or infauna-based data, guidance on which set of epibenthic species to include and the time scale for setting the average swept-area-ratio (SAR) used in model fitting and assessment. A benchmarking process comparing available benthic impact assessment approaches for MSFD descriptor 6 “Seafloor integrity” is needed, as the WGFBIT approach (relative benthic state) is not the only way to assess benthic impacts from physical disturbances. A start was made to explore how to incorporate more explicitly ecosystem functioning in to the WGFBIT seafloor assessment methodology. An improved understanding of the relationships between total community biomass and ecosystem functioning may assist in setting acceptable thresholds for ecosystem impacts from trawling. Furthermore, an improved understanding of the link between species functional effect traits and proxies and processes for specific ecosystem functions could help increase our ability to predict the impact of fishing disturbance on benthic ecosystem functioning more accurately. The ecosystem function we focus on is the biogeochemical cycling of organic matter. Two approaches were discussed (i) Biological traits approach focusing on the linkage between biological traits and ecosystem functions and (ii) biogeochemical modelling approach using the established the OMEXDIA model.
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