Project

Discovering the vulnerability of benthic ecosystems in European waters

BENTHIS studies the impacts of fishing on benthic ecosystems and will provide the science base to assess the impact of current fishing practices.

We will study the vulnerability of different benthic ecosystems in European waters and analyse the physical impact of the current fishing practices on benthic organisms and geo-chemical processes.

In collaboration with the fishing industry, we will study innovative fishing technology and develop management scenarios to mitigate the adverse impacts. BENTHIS will inform managers about the benthic habitats that are impacted most and about the fishing gears that have the biggest impact and provide information on options to mitigate the adverse impacts.

Project summary

Benthic ecosystems provide important goods and services, such as fisheries products and supporting, regulation and cultural services. There is serious concern about the adverse impact of fisheries on benthic ecosystem which may negatively affect the fisheries yield and integrity of the sea bed. To develop an integrated approach to the management of human activities in the marine environment, in particular fishing, there is a need to develop quantitative tools to assess the impact of fisheries on the benthic ecosystem and at the same time collaborate with the fishing industry to develop innovative technologies and new management approaches to reduce the impact on benthic ecosystems.

BENTHIS will provide the knowledge to further develop the ecosystem approach to fisheries management as required in the Common Fisheries Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. It will study the diversity of benthic ecosystem in European waters and the role of benthic species in the ecosystem functioning. Fisheries impacts will be studied on benthic organisms and on the geo-chemistry. The newly acquired knowledge will be synthesized in a number of generic tools that will be combined into a fishing/seabed habitat risk assessment method that will be applied to fisheries in the Baltic, North Sea, Western waters, Mediterranean and Black Sea. Fisheries will be selected with the fishing industry based on the impact on the benthic ecosystem.

BENTHIS will integrate fishing industry partners to collaborate in testing the performance of innovative technologies to reduce fishing impact. Finally, in collaboration with the fishing industry and other stakeholders, new management approaches will be developed and tested on their effects on the ecosystem and the socio-economic consequences.

As such BENTHIS will the urgently needed scientific basis to integrate the role of marine benthic ecosystems in fisheries management.

Approach

BENTHIS follows a multi-disciplinary approach with strong stakeholder involvement. Together with fishermen, researchers will conduct trials with innovative fishing gears such as pelagic otter boards and pulse trawls. We will develop generic tools to assess the impact of fishing gears based on the physical characteristics of the gear and the morphological and life history characteristics of the benthic organisms. Also bio-economic models will be developed to quantify the effect of mitigation measures on the socio-economy of the fishing sector. The models will allow an integrated assessment of both the ecology and the socio-economic consequences.

Objectives

  • Provide the knowledge base that allows an assessment of the status of different types of marine benthic ecosystems in European waters on a regional basis and support indicators of Good Environmental Status (GES), in particular on Seafloor Integrity;
  • Develop the tools required to assess the effects of bottom trawling on the structure and functioning of these benthic ecosystems.
  • Study and test, in close collaboration with the fishing industry, innovative technologies that reduce the impact of demersal fisheries on benthic ecosystem on a regional basis, encompassing the Baltic, North Sea, western waters, Mediterranean and Black Sea;
  • Develop in consultation with the fishing industry and other stakeholders on a regional scale, sustainable management plans that reduce the impact of fishing and quantify its ecological and socio-economic consequences

Strategy

In the generic part of the BENTHIS project we will develop knowledge on the mechanisms and processes that determine the functioning of the benthic ecosystem and its vulnerability for fishery impacts. We will also develop knowledge to assess and evaluate options for mitigation. Furthermore we will develop tools that can be generically applied in the regional case studies

In the BENTHIS case studies we will test technological fisheries innovations and we will come forward with innovative management scenarios to improve sustainability. The work in de case studies will be done in close collaboration with the fishing industry and other stakeholders. In these case studies, we focus on specific fisheries that are known for their impact on the benthic ecosystem.

BENTHIS in a nutshell

  • Acronym: BENTHIS
  • Title: Benthic Ecosystem Fisheries Impact Studies
  • Instrument: Collaborative project
  • Total cost: 7.78 million Euros
  • EU contribution: 5.99 million Euros
  • Duration: 60 months
  • Start date: 1 October 2012
  • Consortium: 33 partners from 12 countries
  • Project coordinator: IMARES Wageningen UR
  • Project web site: www.benthis.eu