Benchmark Workshop on the occurrence and protection of VMEs (vulnerable marine ecosystems)​

​​Benchmark workshop on the occurrence and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs)

5–8 April 2022
Hybrid: ICES HQ, Copenhagen and online

​​​​​​​​​​​​​This workshop will review existing methods that ICES uses for the provision of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) advice. It will also develop and document an operational evidence-based procedure for the production of recurrent ICES advice on VMEs.

Certain habitats and species of deep-sea bottom-living organisms are defined as VMEs, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold-water coral reefs, and aggregations of deep-sea sponges. VMEs can be extremely long-lived and are particularly vulnerable to bottom-fishing activity as they are easily disturbed and slow to recover. VMEs are thus protected from bottom fishing under several international treaties that stem from United Nations General Assembly Resolution 61/105 (UNGA, 2006).

In this context, and following the FAO Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas, ICES provides recurring annual advice on the occurrence and protection of VMEs to North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the European Union. In 2022, ICES will be required to review the appropriateness of all NEAFC VME closures and will start to provide recurring advice to the EC under EU Regulation 2016/2336 on the protection of VMEs below depths of 400m.

Upon completion of the benchmark process, the intention is to have a documented evidence-based procedure that will have been “accredited" and will be used by ICES for the future provision of advice on the occurrence of VMEs and fishing activity in the vicinity of VMEs as well as advising management options, including closures.

The workshop will be chaired by Eugene Nixon (Ireland) and external review chair Pierre Pepin (Canada).​


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