A central portal for data on the distribution and abundance of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), (and organisms considered to be indicators of VMEs) across the North Atlantic has been set up by the Joint ICES/NAFO Working Group on Deep-water Ecology (WGDEC). Criteria used to select habitats and indicators for inclusion in the database were those described in the FAO International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas (FAO, 2009). The database is comprised of; 1) 'VME habitats' which are records for which there is unequivocal evidence for a VME, e.g. ROV observations of a coral reef, 2) VME indicators which are records that suggest the presence of a VME with varying degrees of uncertainty. For VME indicators a weighting system of vulnerability and uncertainty is provided as part of the database to aid interpretation. The VME database may be used for many purposes; ICES will use it when providing scientifically-robust advice on the distribution of VMEs and recommending possible management solutions such as bottom fishing closures within NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) waters to protect VMEs.
Relationship with the FAO VME database
The ICES VME Database differs from the FAO VME database (see link in right menu). The ICES VME Database contains observations of VME indicators and habitats throughout the North Atlantic, whereas the FAO database contains records of management measures implemented by Regional Fisheries Bodies throughout the world's oceans.
© Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), UK 2009