Benthic Ecosystem Fisheries Impact Study
The sea bed provides a place to live for a wide diversity of plants and animals. Fisheries negatively impact these benthic ecosystems, for instance by reducing biodiversity, sea bed integrity, food for bottom dwelling fish and fisheries yield. BENTHIS will provide the science base to assess the impact of current fishing practices and, in collaboration with the industry, develop innovative fishing technology and management scenarios to mitigate the adverse impacts. In this respect it also contributes to the objective of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) to achieve a Good Environmental Status of marine EU waters by 2020, especially regarding biological diversity and seafloor integrity.
To support an integrated approach to the management of human activities in the marine environment, in particular fishing, as required in the Common Fisheries Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, there is a need to develop quantitative tools to assess the impact of fisheries on the benthic ecosystem. BENTHIS will provide this knowledge. It will study the vulnerability of different benthic ecosystems in European waters and analyse the physical impact of the current fishing practices on benthic organisms and geo-chemical processes.
In collaboration with the fishing industry, options to mitigate the adverse impact will be reviewed and sea trials will be conducted to study the performance of technological innovations in the five major European seas (Baltic, North Sea, Western waters, Mediterranean and Black Sea). Fisheries studied comprise flatfish and shrimp fisheries with beam trawls, nephrops and roundfish fisheries with otter trawls, and shellfish fisheries with dredges. Finally, new management approaches will be developed in direct collaboration with the fishing industry and
other stakeholders and tested on their effects on the ecosystem and the socio-economic consequences. BENTHIS will inform managers about the benthic habitats that are impacted the most and about the fishing gears that have the biggest effects and provide information on options to mitigate the adverse impacts.
The project follows a multi-disciplinary approach with strong stakeholder involvement. Sea trials will be conducted with innovative fishing gears such as pelagic otter boards and pulse trawls. Generic tools will be developed to assess the impact of fishing gears based on the physical characteristics of the gear and the morphological and life history characteristics of the benthic organisms. Bio-economic models will be developed to quantify the effect of mitigation measures on the socio-economy of the fishing sector. The models will allow an integrated assessment of both the ecology and the socioeconomic consequences.