Working Group on Deep-water Ecology



WGDECWGDECTrueRui Vieira, Maria Ana Almeida Colaço, David StirlingHAPISGrui.vieira@cefas.gov.uk, maria.aa.colaco@uac.pt, David.Stirling@gov.scot15Working Group on Deep-water Ecology

The Working Group on Deep-water Ecology (WGDEC) deals with the biology and conservation of deep-sea habitats in the North Atlantic.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​WGDEC experts are comprised of taxonomic specialists, deep-sea survey scientists, GIS analysts, fisheries scientists, database experts, benthic ecologists, and fish biologists, and  they meet annually to collate new information and map the distributions of vulnerable marine systems (VMEs) in ICES and NAFO areas. The resulting maps are combined with information on bathymetry and fishing activity to assess the risk to VMEs. In some situations closures to bottom fisheries are the best means of affording protection, and WGDEC uses the best available data on VME distribution, models, bathymetric maps and the judgement of experts to suggest appropriate closure boundaries. The working group also advises on the appropriateness of the bottom fishing regulations adopted by RFMOs as well as wider ecological questions regarding deep-sea ecosystem function and diversity.

Deep-water ecosystems such as coral reefs, deep-sea sponge aggregations and hydrothermal vents are some of the most diverse but least known habitats on earth. They are also extremely vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance, e.g. bottom fishing or mineral and fossil fuel extraction. Damage to these so-called vulnerable marine ecosystems or VMEs has already been reported. They may take decades or even centuries to recover and there is therefore an urgent need for protection from human impacts.

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