Abrasion is primarily caused by bottom-contacting fishing gear. Current bottom trawl fisheries operate in very specific areas such as along bank slopes, e.g. Hatton Bank, or on seamounts, e.g. Fangorn Bank (Figure 5). These data illustrate that bottom trawl fishing is very patchy and restricted by the spatial management plans introduced by NEAFC. Within the areas that remain open to fishing (existing bottom fishing areas), certain sites and tracks are preferred and fished repeatedly.
No commercial fisheries have operated deeper than approx. 1600 m; thus, a large proportion of the seabed in the area has never been abraded by fisheries. Although vessel monitoring data exist for the area for recent years, the most intense fishing happened prior to the advent of VMS, so it is very difficult to assess the historical abrasion footprint
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Figure 5: Examples of tracks of fishing vessels (VMS records; dark blue lines) on Rockall and Fangorn banks (upper) and Hatton Bank (lower). The light brown areas are NEAFC “existing bottom fishing areas” that are open to fishing, while grey polygons are closed to bottom fishing. The outer limits of the EEZs are shown as solid grey lines. Bottom fishing is not allowed within the Haddock Box (green) to protect juvenile haddock (source: https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5580)