Understanding the impacts of fishing activity to the seafloor is a key element in the development of sustainable ecosystem-based marine resource management. Any bottom-contact fishing will impact the sea floor to some extent depending on the seabed type and the gear type used. In some cases impacts are clear; bottom-trawling can cause immediate and long-lasting damage to deepwater coral, sponge and sea-pen communities. In other cases impacts are not even apparent; beach-seining of shallow sandy habitats has continued for centuries without obvious change. It is only recently that we have begun to appreciate the extent of this variability and initiate research aimed as understanding how disturbance caused by fishing affects ecosystem function, biodiversity, productivity, vulnerability and resilience. Longer term ecosystem and community responses to indirect impacts of fisheries such as discards are hardly understood at all. There is a growing need to develop indicators of ecological status, including seabed integrity and we generally lack predictive models of recovery for most ecosystems. Technical solutions aimed at minimising seabed impacts are starting to appear, but their efficacy remains to be tested in many ecosystems.
This symposium will review the physical and biological effects of fishing activities to sea bottom ecosystems, look at various technical conservation measures designed to mitigate these effects and ultimately try to quantify the overall ecosystem impact. The aim is to develop tools for use in informed ecosystem-based fisheries management.