Deep-water fisheries have in the past faced particular difficulty as regards monitoring and management. Assessments of target species, such as the roundnose grenadier, are challenging due to difficulties in estimating age and the standardisation of catch per unit effort (CPEU) - a measure of the abundance of a target species. In addition, these species are often vulnerable to overfishing and sustainable levels of exploitation are low. And vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) such as corals and sponges are also often damaged by fishing tools. The European Union (EU)-funded Deepfishman project aimed at finding sustainable management options to improve conditions of these deep-water fisheries in the North East Atlantic.
© Fotolia, 2012
Deepfishman started in April 2009 and ran for a period of three and a half years. With nearly €3 million in funding under the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), the project addressed all aspects of deep-water fisheries. These included finding appropriate assessment methods, establishing harvest control rules and undertaking biodiversity and socio-economic studies. The bioeconomic impacts of newly introduced management strategy options were also examined for selected fisheries.
Coordinated by the Institut Français de Recherche pour L'exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), Deepfishman comprised a consortium of 13 partners from 9 countries, namely France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
From the 1970s to the early 2000s, deep-water fisheries developed sporadically with no real management structures in place. Then in 2003, effective management measures started to be implemented in EU waters. In line with these measures, Deepfishman was established to overcome the knowledge gap that limited the basis for deep-water fisheries management and hindered the implementation of reliable long-term management schemes.
Nine 'case studies' were selected that reflected the different types of deep-water fishery found in the North East Atlantic. For each case study, current problems with assessment or management were identified and new methods developed and tested. Recommendations for future methods and bioeconomic approaches were then made.
Deepfishman also integrated data and knowledge from stakeholders to both improve the understanding of stocks and ecosystems and fill the gap between science, policy and stakeholders. Meanwhile, the involvement of stakeholders was and continues to be crucial and has been encouraged by the organisation of various conferences and workshops across Europe.
Methodologies developed in Deepfishman have been made available to agencies in charge of fisheries resources and ecosystem assessment and management. For example, some methodological developments have already been integrated into routine stock assessments carried out by the International Council for the Exploitation of the Sea (ICES).
In addition, assessments methodologies and harvest control rules, economic performance of deep-water fisheries, analysis of stakeholder knowledge and data are being published by the consortium in scientific and mainstream media.
Deepfishman just ended but work on this important project still carries on with a special issue of the journal "Aquatic Living Resources" due to be published in 2013. The issue is based on studies presented at the conference "The scientific basis for ecosystem based resource management and monitoring in the deep-waters of the Mediterranean & North Atlantic", held in Galway, Ireland at the end of summer 2012 in cooperation with FP7 Coral Fish project.