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Better Knowledge of Fishing Gear Key to Minimising Sea Bed Impacts

11 June 2014

GLOBAL - Effective management and conservation of fisheries and fishing grounds requires a comprehensive understanding of fishing methods and fishing gear, according to a new paper published in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Science Series volume 2.

Fishing gears used to capture benthic and demersal species make varying degrees of disturbance to the sea bed. Understanding the direct and indirect impacts fishing practices have on the benthic habitats is important to ensuring the sustainability of the global oceans.

In volume 2, Chris Grieve et al. explores best practices in measuring, managing and mitigating benthic impacts of fishing. The review focusses on many of the most widely used fishing gear. For each gear type, the authors provide a description of its design and how it interacts with the environment.

Historically, fishing gear improvements were designed to maximise catch. With industry and NGOs becoming more concerned about minimising impacts on sea bed and bycatch, research is now being done on gear modifications to achieve this outcome.

In the paper, Review of habitat dependent impacts of mobile and static fishing gears that interact with the sea bed, the authors write: "There is a burgeoning body of research into seafloor habitats becoming available to policy-makers and resource managers. The awareness of the need to manage actively the complex components of marine ecosystems is increasing, as is the need to understand the direct and indirect impacts of fishing upon them."

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) classification of gear types is being updated to accommodate the most recent developments in fishing gears and will soon be published. Recent improvements include advances in fibre technology, mechanisation of gear handling, improved performance of vessels and motorisation, computer processing for gear design, navigation aids, and fish detection.

This review, together with three papers issued in Science Series volume 2, provides MSC with references to guide its policy development upon global best practices.

Other papers featured addressing bycatch mitigation and recommendations on salmon stock management, also played an important part in steering the the MSC’s 2013 Fisheries Standard Review, a process through which the MSC can ensure its standard meets current scientific best practice.

Dr David Agnew, MSC Standards Director said: "In order to truly appreciate the global impacts of fishing, increased scientific understanding is needed. At the MSC, we regularly review our standards to ensure its rigour and relevance. Through the MSC Science Series, we continue to share new understanding, and contribute to the wider global research effort on sustainable fisheries."

The platform was launched in November 2013 to share the science that underpins the MSC standards. The outcome of the standard review will be released on 1 August 2014 as part of MSC fisheries certification requirements 2.0.

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