WGFBIT evaluates ways of modelling the sensitivity of seabed habitats to disturbances such as bottom fishing, and produces maps and indicators for measuring what effects such human activities have on the seabed. Such information is used to estimate the impact of fishing pressure, set reference values for avoiding habitat degradation, and inform managers about the interlinkages, and therefore trade-offs, between benthic impacts and the landings or revenue from fishing. This information is required to explore management options and the likely consequences.
WGFBIT focuses on both developing new assessment methods, as well as using existing ones to evaluate the state of the seabed for ICES ecoregions. The methods need to incorporate aspects of both the structure and function of benthic communities. In putting these methods into use, the aim is to derive safe biological limits to fishing impact (covering both spatial and temporal aspects), for example in relation to the amount of habitat fragmentation an area can withstand before its ability to recover will be affected.
The group likes to attract specialists in a variety of fields to enhance the cross-disciplinary nature of the work, including benthic ecology, marine habitat mapping, fisheries gear technology, and policy and management.
WGFBIT collaborates with the spatial fisheries data (WGSFD), benthic ecology (BEWG)
and ecosystem effects of fishing (WGECO) working groups.
Photo: Silvana Birchenough