Workshop on EU regulatory area options for VME protection
reportposted on 2021-01-04, 00:00 authored by ICESICES
Under regulation (EU) 2016/2336, the EU fleet will be banned from bottom fishing in all watersbetween 400 and 800m in depth, apart from within the existing fishing footprint. Within the fishingfootprint, EU vessels will be prohibited from bottom fishing in any closed areas that mightbe introduced to protect VMEs. To meet these regulatory requirements, ICES was requested bythe European Commission to provide “advice on the list of areas where VMEs are known to occur orare likely to occur and on the existing deep-sea fishing areas (ref. (EU)2016/2336)”.The ICES workshop WKEUVME was tasked to produce the technical evidence base for producinga set of regulatory area options, building on 2019 work (Technical Service and WKREG workshop),as well as previous ICES advice (ICES 2018a) and technical services (ICES 2018b). Thework drew upon the most recent fishing activity and vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) distributiondata at ICES, which has been quality assured following the respective annual ICES datacalls for VMS/logbook (link) and VMEs (link). The assessment procedure herein is fully documented,with the respective scripts to run the assessment available on an open source platform(WKEUVME GitHub site).Two “assessment sheets” with respective regulatory area options for two larger ecoregions (Bayof Biscay and Iberian Coast, and the Celtic Seas) were produced. These assessment sheets servedas the basis for dissemination documents for managers – stakeholders meeting of WKEUVME inSeptember 2020, and could be incorporated into their respective annual ICES Ecosystem andFisheries Overviews in future. There are also strong links to shallower water assessment proceduresdeveloped by WGFBIT (Working Group on Fisheries Benthic Impact and Trade-offs) thathave been developed for the ICES Ecosystem Overview advice in the context of Descriptor 6seafloor integrity of the EC’s marine strategy framework directive (MSFD).WKEUVME used a data-driven approach to provide management options for this request. Twobroad scenarios were provided, each with two options. For each option a set of rules was definedfor producing the outcomes. The first scenario defined VME closure polygons without any modificationby known fishing activity. The first option under this scenario focused on VME habitatsand areas with a High or Medium VME Index score (a multi-criteria assessment method developedby WGDEC). The second option included areas identified in option 1 and added in areaswhere four types of VME elements were present (areas where VMEs are likely to occur: seamounts,banks, coral mounds, and mud volcanoes); allowing managers to choose the level of precautionthey wish to apply in protecting VMEs. The second scenario identified areas where the fishingfootprint overlapped with VMEs and then used VME biomass/fishing intensity relationships toidentify a threshold (swept-area ratio (SAR) < 0.43) for areas where effort was low and unlikelyto have caused Significant Adverse Impacts to the VMEs (at C-square resolution). Two optionsfor closing areas under this scenario were presented: the first where VME habitats and areas witha High or Medium VME Index score (irrespective of fishing effort) and only Low VME Indexscore with low fishing effort were closed; the other where all areas of VME presence (habitatsand Low, Medium and High VME Index values) were closed, but only in areas of low fishingeffort, on the basis that any VME habitat in heavily fished C-squares would be degraded.
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