Bottom Fishery Impact Assessment Standard Draft April 2009 Contents



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Gear type and how the gear is to be fished is an important component of the evaluation of any fishing plan. Gear impact should be evaluated as a product of the typical seabed impact footprint per set or tow of the gear type to be used, the planned number of fishing events (to provide an estimate of the overall extent of physical impact), the likelihood of encountering vulnerable species in proposed fishing areas (including the proportion of planned deployments occurring in new areas) and the expected degree of impact by the gear type concerned, to generate an index of potential disturbance. Default rankings of expected level of impact by gear type are provided in Table 2. 32

Table 2. Ratings of habitat impact for each gear class on a scale of 1 (very low) to 5 (very high) (from Chuenpagdee et al. 2003). 33

5. Detection & Designation of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems 33

By using a characterisation instead of a definition, the FAO deep-sea guidelines avoid discussing region-specific details of taxonomic level, organism abundance or local biodiversity as potential criteria to use in assessments, or for triggering management actions. In order to implement the SPRFMO Interim Measures for Bottom Fisheries (SPRFMO 2007a), details of actual species or higher level taxa known or likely to contribute to VMEs in the South Pacific deep-seas, and the catching of which could indicate evidence of such VMEs, need to be established. The relevant SPRFMO interim measures state: 33

Bottom fisheries: In respect of bottom fisheries, Participants resolve to: 33

6. In respect of areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known to occur or are likely to occur based on the best available scientific information, close such areas to bottom fishing unless, based on an assessment undertaken in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below, conservation and management measures have been established to prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks or it has been determined that such bottom fishing will not have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems or the long term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks. 33

7. Require that vessels flying their flag cease bottom fishing activities within five (5) nautical miles of any site in the Area where, in the course of fishing operations, evidence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is encountered, and report the encounter, including the location, and the type of ecosystem in question, to the interim Secretariat so that appropriate measures can be adopted in respect of the relevant site. Such sites will then be treated in accordance with paragraph 6 above. 33

(SPRFMO 2007a) 33

Implementation of these measures requires specific definitions of: 33

Evidence of a VME to trigger the move-on provisions of interim measure 7; and 33

Existence of areas known or likely to contain VMEs, to trigger the management requirements of interim measure 6. 33

It is important to distinguish between these. A protocol to determine ‘Evidence of a VME’ is required to enable a rapid assessment and immediate management response during actual fishing operations at sea, to limit immediate impact on areas which appear to support significant quantities of VME species. In contrast, ‘Designating a VME’ requires a scientific and deliberative longer-term analysis to integrate data from individual encounters and assess information on occurrence of VMEs across larger spatial scales, in order to identify, map and designate areas which are considered to constitute actual VMEs. 34

5.1 Detection of ‘Evidence of VMEs’ 34

SPRFMO bottom fishing interim measure 7 is intended to apply in cases of unexpected interactions with VMEs in areas where no other pre-determined management action has been implemented to prevent significant adverse impacts. IM 7 specifies an immediate 5 nautical mile move-on provision when ‘evidence of VMEs’ is encountered and is intended to be applied at sea during individual fishing operations. A number of key principles, constraints and requirements need to be considered when designing a protocol to detect evidence of a VME: 34

Key Principles for a Protocol to Identify ‘Evidence of a VME’ 34

Evidence of a VME needs to be defined in a way which makes this measure implementable at sea. Such evidence must necessarily be defined in terms of benthic by-catch made during individual bottom fishing operations (e.g. trawl tows or line sets). 34

Evidence should be derived from species which possess the characteristics considered to make them vulnerable to deep-sea bottom fisheries, as defined in the FAO deep-sea guidelines. Emphasis should be placed on taxonomic groups which may contribute to forming VMEs (FAO 2008, Annex 1). 34

The protocol should be rapid to implement at the end of each tow or set, and should not require a high level of taxonomic identification expertise. Relatively few, higher order taxonomic groups should be used, rather than individual species or genera. 34

Some measure of quantity needs to be incorporated to allow the protocol to distinguish between a sporadic capture of a single organism which may not indicate evidence of a VME and a quantity of by-catch which is considered to constitute evidence of a vulnerable ecosystem. 34

Higher ranks / scores should be accorded to species considered more vulnerable to fishing impacts, or which are considered to be strong indicators of VMEs. The protocol should also incorporate some measure of biodiversity, to accord higher scores to bycatches of many species, as opposed to a single species. 34

Designation of Taxa Constituting Evidence of a VME 34

The FAO deep-sea guidelines (paragraph 42) identify characteristics of species or communities that should be considered to be vulnerable to impacts of bottom fishing. Annex 1 of the guidelines provides examples of taxonomic groups of organisms which have those characteristics, and which could contribute to forming VMEs (FAO 2008). From these guidelines, taxonomic groups selected for incorporation into a SPRFMO VME Evidence protocol should be those which are: 34

Functionally significant to the community or ecosystem, either by creating structural complexity that other species may utilize as habitat, or by providing some unique function that supports the community; 34

Low productivity species due to life history traits such as slow growth, high longevity, low fecundity, or unpredictable recruitment; 34

Unique, rare or endemic to a small area; 35

Fragile to bottom fishing gear; 35

Retained to some degree, and previously observed, in bottom fishing gear; 35

Quickly identifiable by scientific observers onboard without the aid of complex taxonomic identification guides or equipment. 35

Taxonomic groups which meet the above criteria, and which are proposed for inclusion in the SPRFMO VME Evidence protocol (Parker et al. in press) are listed in Table 1. Taxa such as bryozoans and feathery hydroids have been excluded from this list because they are generally not retained by bottom fishing gears. 35

Weight Thresholds Constituting Evidence of a VME 35

Bottom trawls are inefficient at sampling benthic organisms, with poor selectivity for some benthic species of concern such as fragile coldwater corals. Bottom trawl benthic bycatches are therefore likely to consist of low weights, even in areas of abundant VME taxa. However, bycatches of a single retained benthic organism may not constitute evidence of a VME. It is therefore necessary to determine appropriate bycatch weight thresholds which indicate likelihood of interaction with a actual VME, while avoiding triggering a move-on response, and unnecessary spread of fishing effort, in areas with sparse benthic organisms. Such threshold weights should be based on analysis of actual bottom fishing bycatch data for the method and region to be fished, to integrate some measure of gear selectivity for the chosen taxa. 35

Proposed threshold weights for SPRFMO Area bottom trawl fisheries were determined for each taxonomic group in Table 1 based on the cumulative distribution of bycatch weights observed in 19,000 bottom trawl tows in the New Zealand deep-sea trawl fishery from 1998 - 2002, an exploratory fishing period when VME encounters would be expected to have been most frequent (Parker 2008, Ministry of Fisheries 2008, Parker et al. in press). The median of the cumulative weight frequency distribution for by-catches of each taxonomic group is proposed as an appropriate threshold to distinguish between bycatches of isolated or spares benthic organisms, and bycatches which constitute evidence of an actual VME (see Parker et al. in press). The resulting bycatch threshold weights for the proposed VME evidence taxa are shown in Table 1. 35

VME Indicator / Vulnerability Rankings 35

In addition to threshold weights, a relative weighting score should be assigned to each taxonomic group based on understanding of the respective vulnerability of each taxon. Taxa that have life history characteristics making them vulnerable to fishing activities, or which are strongly indicative of VMEs, should be allocated a higher score. Other groups, less vulnerable themselves but which are indicators of habitats suitable for vulnerable species, could be included, but with a lower score. 35

Level of biodiversity is also an important measure of the vulnerability of VMEs, and of the importance of protecting such areas. In addition to evaluation of individual taxa, some measure of biodiversity should be included in the VME evidence protocol. This is achieved in Table 1 by allocating a score of 3 to taxa considered to be vulnerable and likely indicators of VMEs, while allocating a score of 1 to additional taxa which are less vulnerable, but which may indicate suitable VME habitats, and which contribute to biodiversity. The combined scoring process ensures that a single large catch of a vulnerable taxon will trigger the move-on rule, but that bycatch of several vulnerable groups, even if below the threshold weights, will also constitute evidence of a VME. 35

VME Evidence Protocol 36

The proposed taxonomic groups to be used for identifying evidence of interaction with a VME, proposed threshold weights for these taxa and proposed VME ranking scores are summarised in Table 1. 36

Table 1. List of taxonomic groups which should be used assessed to identify evidence of fishing on a VME in the South Pacific Ocean (Parker 2008, Ministry of Fisheries 2008, Parker et al. in press). 36

Taxonomic Group 36

Common Name 36

Bycatch Weight Threshold (kg) 36

VME Rank / Score 36

Phylum: Porifera 36

sponges 36

50 36


3 36

Phylum: Cnidaria 36

Class Anthozoa: 36

Order: Actiniaria 36

anemones 36

- 36


1 36

Scleractinia 36

stony corals 36

30 36


3 36

Antipatharia 36

black corals 36

1 36


3 36

Alcyonacea 36

soft corals 36

1 36


3 36

Gorgonacea 36

sea fans 36

1 36


3 36

Pennatulacea 36

sea pens 36

- 36


1 36

Class: Hydrozoa: 36

Order: Anthoathecatae 36

Family Stylasteridae 36

hydrocorals 36

6 36


3 36

Unidentified corals 36

corals 36

- 36


1 36

Phylum: Echinodermata 36

Class: Crinoidea 36

sea lilies 36

- 36

1 36


Order: Brisingida 36

armless stars 36

- 36

1 36


(Note: Taxa associated with seep and vent systems should be included in future revisions if bottom fisheries intend to fish in the vicinity of seep and vent systems.) 36

The taxa, threshold weights and VME scores in Table 1 are combined into a proposed rapid assessment protocol, as detailed on the VME Evidence Form, shown in Appendix A. This provides a simple, rapid procedure to determine if a particular benthic bycatch is likely to be from a VME, based on a few key taxonomic groups. In incorporating the vulnerability rankings and threshold weights into a real-time protocol for use at sea, available information is synthesized on the simple scoring form, incorporating the weights of each vulnerable group, presence of habitat indicators and an index of taxonomic diversity into a single score. Under this protocol, a score of 3 constitutes evidence of a VME, and should trigger a move-on. 36

Implementation of the Evidence of a VME Protocol 36

Effective implementation of a VME Evidence Protocol for each individual bottom fishing operation in the SPRFMO Area can best be achieved by 100% coverage by suitably trained and experienced observers, as is required by the SPRFMO interim measures (IM 9) for bottom fisheries. 36

To aid in accurately identifying specimens from these groups, a classification guide specific to the taxa to be monitored under the VME Evidence Protocol, utilizing non-technical and visually apparent characteristics to rapidly distinguish the groups (Tracey et al. 2008), is attached in Appendix B. 36

Vessels encountering evidence of a VME, as defined in the above protocol, must cease fishing within 5 nm of the fishing site, and report the position and details of VME evidence to the SPRFMO Secretariat. The fishing position should be defined as the location where hauling of the net commenced for that tow. 37

The SPRFMO Secretariat should regularly inform all other participants of the positions of sites with evidence of VMEs. Participants will be expected to take such information into account during preparation or updating of bottom fishery impact assessments. 37

Participants must indicate in their assessments what action will be taken in relation to avoidance of sites showing evidence of a VME during subsequent fishing operations by their vessels. 37

5.2 Designation of Areas as VMEs 37

The FAO deep-sea guidelines recognise that ‘Merely detecting the presence of an element itself is not sufficient to identify a VME’. (FAO 2008, Annex 1). Single encounters with evidence of a VME indicate the presence of a vulnerable species at some point in the area fished during the tow or set, but may not indicate the presence of a vulnerable ecosystem in the area. Further analyses are required to designate areas known to support VMEs based on repetitive encounters with vulnerable species in a particular area, prediction of areas likely to support VMEs based on information on habitat suitability for vulnerable deepwater benthic species, or seabed biodiversity surveys. 37

Repetitive Encounters with Vulnerable Taxa 37

While an encounter with evidence of a VME at a single site may not indicate presence of an actual VME, multiple or repetitive encounters with such evidence in an area provide an increasing likelihood that the area does support a benthic VME. Data on evidence of VMEs gathered during fishing operations, and reported to the SPRFMO Secretariat, should be regularly analysed to identify, map and characterise areas in which multiple or repetitive encounters with VME species are found. The following guidelines on what constitutes repetitive encounters with vulnerable taxa indicating presence of a VME are provided by Rogers et al. (2008): 37

Two or more consecutive hauls containing > 2kgs each of live corals, or > 5kg sponges or other habitat-forming epifauna, on the same trawl track or setting area, or where consecutive trawling tracks or sets intersect. 37

> 4 encounters of > 2kg of corals, or > 10 encounters of > 2kg of sponges or other habitat-forming epifauna, within an area (1km2) within one year. 37

> 4 corals per 1000 hooks in a long line fishery within one year within an area (10km2). 37

> 15% of hauls of any gear within an area (10 - 100km2) containing corals, sponges or other habitat forming epifaunal taxa. 37

Prediction of Habitat Suitability and Likelihood of VMEs 37

Data on seabed biodiversity are lacking for most deep sea benthic areas, except for a few specifically surveyed seamount systems, and seabed biodiversity surveys are likely to remain unaffordable for all but a few areas of particular interest. . In the absence of such data, biologically important physical factors (Clark 2008, Penney et al. in press) can be used to indicate suitability of specific areas for vulnerable benthic species, and to stratify measures such as spatial closures to protect such areas. Important seabed characteristics are listed in Section 4.4 - Biologically Important Factors. 37

Physical seabed factors can be combined with physical / chemical factors such as temperature, salinity, depth, chlorophyll, oxygen, currents, productivity and water chemistry using habitat suitability models and environmental niche factor analysis (Hirzel et al. 2002) to predict suitability of particular areas or features as habitats for VME species. Analyses of this type have been conducted for the South Pacific region by Clark et al. (2006), classifying the original Kitchingman and Lai (2004) seamounts in terms of suitability as habitats for coldwater corals, and by Allain et al. (2008), classifying validated South Pacific seamounts in terms of depth suitability for various deepwater fish species. Taxonomic distinctness indices (Warwick and Clark 1998, Clark and Warwick 1998, 2001) can be used to evaluate comparative uniqueness, and therefore vulnerability, of communities on different features. 38

In addition to data on interactions with evidence of a VME, SPRFMO participants should collect and contribute data potentially useful to niche factor and habitat suitability analyses to a SPRFMO geospatial database (see Section 9 - Provision of Geospatial Data). These data should be used in periodic analyses coordinated by the SWG to develop habitat suitability indices, predict and map locations of seabed areas with a high likelihood of supporting VMEs in the SPRFMO Area. 38

Seabed Biodiversity Surveys 38

The most reliable data on seabed biodiversity and presence of VMEs will be provided by scientific seabed biodiversity surveys, either using seabed sampling equipment designed to quantitatively sample the fauna concerned (such as benthic sampling sleds), or using photographic or video imagery (Constable and Holt 2007, CCAMLR 2007) along planned surveys transects. Where feasible, efforts should be made to conduct such sampling in areas of particular interest or concern, such as those predicted from habitat suitability and niche factor analyses to be highly likely to support VMEs. 38

Particular efforts should be made to survey areas proposed for long-term and large-scale spatial closures, to ensure that such areas do contain substantial VME communities, and that they are representative (in terms of biodiversity and VME abundance) of areas to be left open to possible fishing. Such surveys could be conducted as internationally collaborative surveys between SPRFMO participants. 38

Where scientific surveys are not considered to be cost effective, Industry fishing vessels may be suitable platforms for conducting opportunistic seabed imaging using drop cameras or net-mounted video systems. Simultaneous collection of seabed images and benthic bycatch analyses by scientific observers would provide a particularly useful data set for improving understanding of the relationship between seabed biodiversity and benthic bycatches by various fishing gears. 38

Designation of VME Areas 38

Information and data on interactions with VME species, predictive analyses of habitat suitability and results of seabed biodiversity surveys should form the basis for mapping and designation of areas known or likely to support VMEs within the SPRFMO Area. The SWG should develop recommendations for measures to protect such areas from significant adverse impacts of bottom fishing. Such recommendations should include recommendations for large-scale permanent spatial closures to protect adequate and representative VME areas from further impact. 38

When preparing impact assessments for proposed fishing activities, Participants are to specifically take account of all such advice or recommendations on occurrence of areas likely to support VMEs in the SPRFMO Area, and are to detail what management and mitigation measures will be implemented to prevent significant adverse impacts in areas designated as being known or likely to contain VMEs. 39

6. Mapping of Bottom Fishing Effort 39

SPRFMO bottom fishing interim measure 2 requires participants to constrain fishing to within areas where fishing is ‘currently occurring’: 39

Bottom fisheries: In respect of bottom fisheries, Participants resolve to: 39

2. Not expand bottom fishing activities into new regions of the Area where such fishing is not currently occurring. 39

(SPRFMO 2007a) 39

At the 4th SWG meeting, areas where fishing is ‘currently occurring’ was defined as any area fished by at least one tow or set over the calendar years 2002 - 2006. In adopting the interim Benthic Assessment Framework in 2007 (SPRFMO 2007c), it was agreed that these areas are to be mapped as a historical bottom fishing footprint comprising all 20 minute latitude x longitude grid blocks (Lat/Lon, chart datum WGS84, unprojected) fished by at least one bottom fishing tow or set over the years 2002 - 2006. 39

Bottom fishing footprint maps are to be prepared using individual tow-by-tow data submitted by Participants for all historic bottom fishing operations. These data should be submitted to the Secretariat in accordance with the SPRFMO Data Standards for these fishing methods (SPRFMO 2007b), including start and end positions of individual tows or sets at a minimum resolution of 1/10th degree. Confidentiality of these data are protected under the SPRFMO standards for data exchange. 39

The SPRFMO Secretariat, in cooperation with the SWG, will develop and maintain electronic geospatial maps of joint bottom fishing effort for all Participants in bottom fisheries in the SPRFMO area over 2002 - 2006. Blocks will be standardized to begin on whole degrees of latitude and longitude. An example of such a map is shown in Figure 2, based on New Zealand bottom trawl tow positions. 39

Different bottom fishing methods have different levels of expected impact (Chuenpagdee et al. 2003), with mobile gears such as bottom trawling (benthic or bentho-pelagic trawling) or dredging ranked as having the highest impact, and stationary gears (such as bottom lining) having lower impact (see Section 4.6 - Hierarchy of Bottom Fishing Impacts). Bottom fishing effort and footprint maps should therefore be prepared separately for each of the main bottom fishing methods: trawling, dredging, lining, stationery netting, potting and trap fishing. 39

Geospatial databases used to prepare bottom fishing effort maps for each of the bottom fishing methods should include the following data for each individual fishing event: 39

Flag of the vessel which conducted the fishing event. 39

Year of the fishing event. 39

Start and end lat / lon for each individual set or tow. 39

An appropriate index of effort for each event (such as: trawls - length or duration of tow; bottom longline lines - line length and number of hooks; drop lines - number of hooks). 39

Individual fishing position data should be submitted for all historical fishing events, including prior to 2002, and for all future bottom fishing events as part of the annual data submission process. In addition to preparing the ‘currently fished areas’ bottom footprint maps by method for the 2002 - 2006 reference period, this will enable maps to be prepared as and when required to evaluate fishing effort distribution and impact levels for other historical periods, or for fishing which occurs after 2006. 40

7. Mapping of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems 40

Assessments prepared under this standard are required to determine whether proposed bottom fishing activities will have significant adverse impacts on “areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known to occur or are likely to occur based on the best available scientific information.” (bottom fishing IM 6, SPRFMO 2007a). This requires mapping of available data on the known or likely distribution of VMEs in the SPRFMO area. There a number of steps towards mapping VMEs in the SPRFMO area: 40

Mapping of known or predicted underwater topographic features, particularly seamounts, which may support vulnerable benthic species and ecosystems. 40

Mapping of fishing positions observed to contain ‘evidence of VMEs’, as defined in the rapid VME evidence assessment protocol in this standard, and of scientific observer data on benthic bycatches. 40

Mapping of seabed biodiversity data from research surveys, underwater visual images or scientific sampling programmes. 40

Analysis of the above information to identify, designate and map areas which are known or likely to contain VMEs, and which require protection from fishing impacts. 40

7.1 Mapping of Underwater Topographic Features 41

UNGA Resolution 61/105 and the SPRFMO interim measure both identify seamounts as areas of particular concern regarding potential impact of fishing on VMEs which may occur on such features. The FAO deep-sea guidelines extend this to list a number of underwater topographic features or habitats which may contain VMEs, including summits and flanks of seamounts, submerged edges and slopes, guyots, banks, knolls, hills, canyons, trenches, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps (FAO 2008, Annex 1). 41

The SPRFMO SWG has requested the Secretariat to include data on such features in the SPRFMO Geospatial Database. Primary sources of such data include: 41

The global database of predicted seamount features produced by Kitchingman & Lai (2004). 41

The database of validated and cross-checked seamount features occurring in the SPRFMO Area produced by Allain et al. (2008). 41

Available bathymetric grid data for the South Pacific region from the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), and for the Tasman Sea area from GeoScience Australia. 41

High resolution bathymetric data which may be collected by industry during fishing operations in the SPRFMO Area. 41

The bathymetric data sets should be used in geostatistical analyses coordinated by the SWG to detect and delineate seabed features with particular profile, slope, depth and elevation which characterise features which are likely to support VMEs. Such features should then be added into the SPRFMO geospatial database of underwater topographic features which may support VMEs. 41

7.2 Mapping of Sites with Evidence of VMEs 41

The SPRFMO bottom fishing interim measures require participants to monitor bottom fishing operations for ‘evidence of VMEs’ and report all such encounters, including details of the evidence obtained, to the SPRFMO Secretariat (bottom fishing IM 7, SPRFMO 2007a) so that such sites can be managed to prevent significant impacts of bottom fishing. Section 5.1 of this standard describes a process and protocol for detecting and recording such evidence. 41

Mapping of all sites found to contain evidence of VMEs is an essential first step towards subsequent analysis of repetitive encounters with vulnerable species in a particular area, which may lead to that area then being designated as a VME (see Section 5.2 - Designation of Areas as VMEs). Data on encounters with evidence of VMEs should be reported to the SPRFMO Secretariat immediately after the completion of each trip on which evidence of VMEs was encountered. Data should be reported separately for each fishing event and should include: 41

Date of the fishing event. 41

Fishing gear type. 41

Exact location of the encounter (position of start of haul of the fishing gear in Lat / Lon to the nearest 1/10th degree). 41

Depth of fishing event (start of haul). 41

Details of the VME evidence encountered, listing each taxonomic group recorded under the VME evidence protocol (see Section 5.1 and Appendix A), with quantitative estimates (weight or volume) of bycatch of each taxon. 41

All detailed scientific observer data on benthic by-catch observed while monitoring bottom fishing operations should also be reported to the Secretariat in a similar format to the above evidence data, but with benthic species identified to the lowest taxon possible, and by-catches of each taxon quantified by weight or volume. 42

7.3 Mapping Areas Designated as Known or Likely VMEs 42

Section 5.2 details a process for analysing data on sites with repetitive encounters with evidence of VMEs, or analyses of the distribution of habitats predicted to be likely to support VMEs. Results of such analyses should be included in the SPRFMO geospatial database and mapped to provide the scientific basis for development of proposals for spatial closures designed to protect adequate and representative areas known or likely to support VMEs in the SPRFMO Area. 42

One such analysis of habitat suitability is the niche-factor analysis by Clark et al. (2006), which evaluates the habitat suitability for coldwater corals of South Pacific seamounts in the Kitchingman & Lai (2004) seamounts database. Results of this analysis (Figure 3), provide an initial prediction of those seamounts which are considered likely to support coldwater corals in the SPRFMO Area. 42

The above geospatial information and maps will be made available to Participants for preparation of Bottom Fishery Impact Assessments. In preparing assessments, Participants should ensure that: 42

Bottom fishery impact assessments specifically take account of all the above information on distribution of VMEs, evidence of VMEs and features likely to support VMEs in the intended fishing areas. 42

Risk assessments evaluate the risk of interactions and significant adverse impacts on these known or likely VMEs and proposed management and mitigation measures should be designed to prevent significant adverse impacts on such areas. 43

Monitoring arrangements are designed to collect relevant information which may be useful to improving the above geospatial databases and maps, including data on sites with evidence of VMEs, scientific observer data on benthic by-catch composition, visual images or sampling data which might be collected in fishing areas and high resolution bathymetric data. 43

8. Preparation of Bottom Fishery Impact Assessments 43

8.1 Bottom Fishery Impact Assessment Process 43

The obligation to prepare impact assessments for all bottom fisheries in the SPRFMO Area is established by the SRFMO Interim Measures for Bottom Fisheries (SPRFMO 2007a): 43

11. Assess, on the basis of the best available scientific information, whether individual bottom fishing activities would have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, and to ensure that if it is assessed that these activities would have significant adverse impacts, they are managed to prevent such impacts, or not authorized to proceed. 43

The process for preparing submitting, evaluating and commenting on these assessments was adopted at the 4th SPRFMO negotiation meeting in September 2007 (SPRFMO 2007c) and consists of the following steps: 43

Participants are required to prepare bottom fishery impact assessments for all proposed bottom fishing activities in the SPRFMO Area, irrespective of the proposed scale, area or previous history of such fishing activities. 43

Such impact assessments are to be prepared and submitted to the SPRFMO Secretariat prior to commencement of any bottom fishing evaluated under the assessment. Fishing may then proceed in accordance with the management and mitigation measures proposed in the assessment while the assessment is being evaluated. 43

All bottom fishing impact assessments are to be posted on the SPRFMO for public comment for a period of 30 days, and forwarded to the SWG for comment. 43

The SWG is required to evaluate all assessment and provide written comments back to flag states through the SPRFMO Secretariat within 60 days of assessments being received. SWG comments on assessments are to be posted on the SPRFMO website. 43

Flag states are required to respond to the written comments provided by the SWG. 43

8.2 Bottom Fishery Impact Assessment Sections 43

The FAO deep-sea management guidelines (FAO 2008) provide specific recommendations on the content of impact assessments for deep-sea fisheries: 43

47. Flag States and RFMO/As should conduct assessments to establish if deep-sea fishing activities are likely to produce significant adverse impacts in a given area. Such an impact assessment should address, inter alia: 43

i. type(s) of fishing conducted or contemplated, including vessels and gear types, fishing areas, target and potential bycatch species, fishing effort levels and duration of fishing (harvesting plan); 44

ii. best available scientific and technical information on the current state of fishery resources and baseline information on the ecosystems, habitats and communities in the fishing area, against which future changes are to be compared; 44

iii. identification, description and mapping of VMEs known or likely to occur in the fishing area; 44

iv. data and methods used to identify, describe and assess the impacts of the activity, the identification of gaps in knowledge, and an evaluation of uncertainties in the information presented in the assessment; 44

v. identification, description and evaluation of the occurrence, scale and duration of likely impacts, including cumulative impacts of activities covered by the assessment on VMEs and low-productivity fishery resources in the fishing area; 44

vi. risk assessment of likely impacts by the fishing operations to determine which impacts are likely to be significant adverse impacts, particularly impacts on VMEs and low-productivity fishery resources; and 44

vii. the proposed mitigation and management measures to be used to prevent significant adverse impacts on VMEs and ensure long-term conservation and sustainable utilization of low-productivity fishery resources, and the measures to be used to monitor effects of the fishing operations. 44

48. Risk assessments referred to in paragraph 47 (vi) above should take into account, as appropriate, differing conditions prevailing in areas where DSFs are well established and in areas where DSFs have not taken place or only occur occasionally. 44

(FAO 2008) 44

Following these guidelines, impact assessments for proposed bottom fishing activities in the SPRFMO Area should specifically provide information under the following sections: 44

Assessments shall contain a detailed fishing plan, providing a quantified description of the planned fishing activities, including: 44

Details of the vessels to be used, providing all vessel data required in terms of the SPRFMO Data Standards for vessel data, and confirmation that they appear on the list of approved SPRFMO vessels submitted by flag states to the SPRFMO Secretariat. 44

Detailed description of fishing methods (trawls, hook and lines, traps, gillnets, tangle nets) to be used, including a description and gear plan of providing information needed to evaluate potential impacts, such as net or bottom line types, net dimensions or bottom line lengths / number of hooks, trawl-door type, size and weight, footrope dimensions and type, ground gear (bobbins, rock-hopper gear, etc), range in fishing height off bottom, net opening and any factors affecting gear selectivity. 44

Seabed depth range to be fished. 44

Target species, and likely or potential by-catch species. 44

Intended period and duration of fishing. 44

Effort indices: How many vessels, how many tows (cumulative effects), estimated tow durations or distance (ranges). 44

Estimated total catch and discard quantities by target and bycatch species. 44

This section should present maps of the proposed fishing areas in relation to available information on VMEs and seabed bathymetry, as well as any additional available information describing the proposed fishing areas, including: 45

Maps of the intended fishing areas, in relation to the SPRFMO bottom fishing footprint map for the bottom fishing gears to be used (see Section 6 - Mapping of Bottom Fishing Effort). The most recent available bottom fishing footprint maps should be obtained from the Secretariat. 45

Mapping of all known VMEs, or topographic features likely to support VMEs, in the proposed fishing areas (see Section 7 - Mapping of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems). In particular, all geospatial data available from the Secretariat on distributions of known or likely VMEs, evidence of VMEs and underwater topographic features likely to support VMEs must be included in this mapping. 45

Baseline data and description of the proposed fishing areas, presenting any available information which might be useful to assessing potential impacts (past history of fishing, seabed type, depth ranges, location / presence of any known seabed topographic features and VMEs). 45

The SPRFMO Secretariat will make the SPRFMO geospatial maps of VMEs, bathymetry and joint trawl footprint available to facilitate mapping of proposed fishing activities in context with this baseline geo-spatial information. 45

To facilitate evaluation of the relationship between proposed fishing areas, the joint trawl footprint and existing VME maps, Flag States should provide their maps for proposed fishing activities to the Secretariat in a compatible GIS format, for inclusion in the SPRFMO geo-spatial database. 45

This section should specifically address the expected and potential interaction and impacts of the proposed fishing gear on VMEs. Detailed information on the proposed fishing activities, information in the SPRFMO geospatial databases and relevant data and information from other regions and fisheries should be used to address the following questions: 45

What impacts are likely to result from the fishing gears to be used ? All impacts should be identified, characterised and ranked. All interactions of fishing gear with the seabed will have some impact, but the nature and severity will be species / habitat dependant. Information on known or likely species and habitats in the proposed fishing area should be sued to evaluate potential impacts of the fishing gears to be used. 45

What will the probability, likely extent (% of habitat targeted) and magnitude of the interaction between the proposed fishing gear / targeting practices on the VMEs in the proposed fishing areas be ? 45

What are the characteristics of the habitats and benthic communities which may be impacted ? Are the fished seabed features likely to support VMEs ? Do these VMEs include fragile or biogenic habitat-forming species  What proportion of the estimated distribution range of these VMEs is area will the proposed fishing activities impact ? How widespread or rare are the VMEs / species ? How vulnerable are the VMEs to impact by the fishing gears to be used ? 45

How diverse is the ecosystem in the proposed fishing areas, and will the fishing activity reduce this biodiversity ? Do the proposed fishing areas contain rare species which do not occur elsewhere ? What are the levels of endemism - could fishing lead to localised / global extinctions ? 45

What is the likely spatial scale and duration of the impacts ? Will impacts be cumulative with previous impacts in the area ? The overall scale of impact will be the product of spatial scale, duration and cumulative impact on VMEs and low productivity resources. Loss of substantial areas of habitat forming coral could have a prolonged impact on the environment, whereas other faunal groups may be able to recover quickly. To the extent possible, rates of recovery, regeneration and re-colonisation should be quantified or estimated. 46

Are there any other threats or issues of concern expected from the proposed fishing activities, such as gear loss and ghost fishing, incidental bycatch discards, protected or endangered species mortalities, effects on ecosystem functioning ? 46

This section should provide information on the estimated state of the deepwater stocks of the intended target and main by-catch species. Such information should include: 46

A list of the intended target and likely main by-catch species. 46

Tables of historic catches and catch trends of these species in the intended fishing area. 46

Tables, figures of analyses of historic nominal and/or standardised CPUE trends in these species. 46

Results of any surveys conducted on the stocks to be fished. 46

Results of the most recent stock assessments that have been conducted for the stocks to be fished, if any such stock assessments have been conducted. 46

This section should present an overview and summary EIA, identifying all likely impacts of the proposed fishing activity on VMEs and low productivity resources. It is this impact assessment which specifically needs to determine whether the proposed fishing activities will have ‘significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks’ (IM6, SPRFMO 2007a). 46

The critical components which contribute to assessing whether potential impacts are expected to be significant are the spatial extent, severity and duration of each impact. Each impact / issue of concern should be accorded an overall significance based on the estimated extent, severity and duration of each impact. For all impacts accorded an overall significance of Moderate or High, effective monitoring, mitigation and management measures to detect, measure, minimise, manage or prevent significant adverse impacts need to be proposed and described. 46

Scoping of Issues of Concern 46

The initial step in each impact assessment process should be a scoping or identification of all of the potential issues of concern related to the proposed fishing activities. This scoping process is typically conducted in the form of a scoping workshop, with participation of all interested and affected parties (or stakeholders). All issues of concern identified by such a scoping process must be addressed by the assessment. 46

For SPRFMO bottom fishery impact assessments, the most important issues of concern have already been identified and prescribed in UNGA Resolution 61/105, the SPRFMO interim measures and the FAO deep-sea management guidelines. These are: 47

Adverse impact of bottom fishing on VMEs. 47

Over-exploitation of low productivity deepwater resources: this concern can be divided into threat of over-exploitation of target species and incidental mortality of non-productivity species, particularly deepwater elasmobranchs. 47

Additional issues of concern which potentially relate to all bottom fisheries, and which should be addressed in all assessments are: 47

Loss of bottom fishing gear: this concern can be divided into risk of ghost fishing and ongoing physical impact of lost gear. 47

Incidental mortality of endangered, threatened or protected species: this concern primarily relates to threats to seabirds. 47

Risk Assessment Approaches 47

The evaluation and ranking system in the tables below has been designed to assess the elements of risk considered most important in determining vulnerability and the significance of bottom fishing related impacts, based on the FAO deep-sea management (FAO 2008), and to include specific definitions for the various rating criteria. To the extent possible, allocation to ranks should be based on quantifiable criteria. It must be noted that the allocated ranks in the tables below refer to the resultant impact itself (e.g. area of seabed affected, and duration of the impact), and not of the cause thereof (level or extent of fishing effort). Elements of risk specifically evaluated are: 47

Description of Impact - Provides a brief description of the expected impacts, answering the question, “What will be affected and how?” 47

Extent - Indicates whether the impact will be: Site Specific (limited to within one kilometre of the fished site); Local (limited to within one fished 20’ block, or 50km of the fished site); Regional (limited to a fishing area ~200 - 500 km radius); or Oceanic (extending across a significant proportion of an ocean basin, or of the SPRFMO Area). 47

Duration - Gives the expected duration of the effects of the impact, being: Short (<5 years); Medium (5 - 20 years); or Long (> 20 years). 47

Intensity - Provides an expert evaluation of whether the magnitude of the impact is destructive or innocuous and whether or not it exceeds set standards, and is described as: None (no detectable impact); Low (where environmental processes are slightly affected); Medium (where environmental processes continue to function but in a noticeably modified manner); or High (where environmental functions and processes are altered such that they temporarily or permanently cease and/or exceed established standards / requirements). 47

Cumulative Impact - An assessment of whether the impact is cumulative over time or space or not, and is expressed as being: Unlikely (the event is either a low-impact rare event, or recovery is rapid, such that effects will not accumulate over time or area); Possible (depending on extent, severity, natural disturbance levels and recovery rates); or Definite (at the intensities occurring, effects will endure such that, over time or space, impacts from a number of separate operations will accumulate). 47

Overall Significance - The overall significance of each impact is then evaluated from the combination of duration, extent, intensity and cumulative effects. Overall Significance is determined as follows: 47

Low: Where the impact will have a negligible influence on the environment and no active management or mitigation is required. This would be allocated to impacts of low intensity and duration, but could be allocated to impacts of any intensity, if they occur at a local scale and are of temporary duration. 48

Medium: Where the impact could have an influence on the environment, which will require active modification of the management approach and / or mitigation. This would be allocated to short to medium-term impacts of moderate intensity, locally to regionally, with possibility of cumulative impact . 48

High: Where the impact could have a significant negative impact on the environment, such that the activity(ies) causing the impact should not be permitted to proceed without active management and mitigation to reduce risks and impacts to acceptable levels. This would be allocated to impacts of high intensity that are local, but last for longer than 5-20 years, and/or impacts which extend regionally and beyond, with high likelihood of cumulative impact. 48

Monitoring, Management and Mitigation Measures - Description of specific monitoring, management and mitigation measures that are currently in place or could be implemented to reduce impacts to acceptable levels. Proposed management measures must be specifically designed to achieve the following results for each level of significance. 48

Low Significance: No mitigation or management measures are required. However, effective monitoring measures need to be designed and implemented to ensure that impacts are low, and to detect any change in degree of impact which would prompt the need for a re-assessment. 48

Medium or High Significance: Effective mitigation and management measures must be implemented, specifically designed to reduce the overall significance of the impact to Low (i.e. by reducing the extent, duration or intensity of the impact concerned, such that the overall significance is reduced to low). 48

An example of practical application of this impact assessment approach, methodology and ranking systems is provided in Ministry of Fisheries (2008). 48

Participants can refer to the following sources for details of alternate environmental, risk and impact assessment approaches adopted elsewhere: 48

ICES: There have been two main approaches to assessing the sensitivity of habitat to fishing: i) ranking sensitivity of habitat units (physical and biological) to disturbance; and ii) ranking the impacts of the gear. ICES conclude that these approaches should be combined. 48

NOAA EIS: Spatial and temporal analysis of the distribution of habitat type, distribution of biota, habitat use, habitat sensitivity, dynamics of fishing effort. 48

MarLin: Approach consists of i) Identify “key / important” species in habitat/biotype; ii) Assess biotype sensitivity based on key species; iii) Assess recoverability of key/important species (Tyler-Walters et al. 2001). 48

CSIRO Ecological Risk Assessment for Effects of Fishing: ERAEF is a hierarchical framework that moves from a Level 1 qualitative analysis through to a more focussed semi-quantitative Level 2 to Level 3 which is model based and fully quantitative. This approach leads to a rapid identification of high risk activities, and evaluation of how fishing impacts on ecological systems (Hobday et al. 2007). 48

UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: (DEFRA) Guidelines for Environmental Risk Assessment and Management. 48

This section should detail proposals for how the fishing activities will be planned and managed to avoid or minimise significant adverse impacts on VMEs and sustainability of low productivity fish stocks. The FAO deep-sea management guidelines (FAO 2008) provide specific guidelines on appropriate management and conservation tools for deep-sea fisheries in the high seas: 49

5.4 Management and conservation tools 49

65. Precautionary conservation and management measures, including catch and effort controls, are essential during the exploratory phase of a DSF, and should be a major component of the management of an established DSF. They should include measures to manage the impact of the fishery on low-productivity species, non-target species and sensitive habitat features. Implementation of a precautionary approach to sustainable exploitation of DSFs should include the following measures: 49

i. precautionary effort limits, particularly where reliable assessments of sustainable exploitation rates of target and main by-catch species are not available; 49

ii. precautionary measures, including precautionary spatial catch limits where appropriate, to prevent serial depletion of low-productivity stocks; 49

iii. regular review of appropriate indices of stock status and revision downwards of the limits listed above when significant declines are detected; 49

iv. measures to prevent significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems; and 49

v. comprehensive monitoring of all fishing effort, capture of all species and interactions with VMEs. 49

66. In areas where VMEs have been designated, or are known or likely to occur, based on seabed surveys and mapping or other best available information, States and RFMO/As should close such areas to DSFs until appropriate conservation and management measures have been established to prevent significant adverse impacts on VMEs and ensure long-term conservation and sustainable use of deep-sea fish stocks, in accordance with Section 5.2. 49

67. States and RFMO/As should have an appropriate protocol identified in advance for how fishing vessels in DSFs should respond to encounters in the course of fishing operations with a VME, including defining what constitutes evidence of an encounter. Such protocol should ensure that States require vessels flying their flag to cease DSFs fishing activities at the site and report the encounter, including the location and any available information on the type of ecosystem encountered, to the relevant RFMO/A and flag State. 49

68. In designing such protocols and defining what constitutes an encounter, States and RFMO/As should take into account best available information from detailed seabed surveys and mapping, other relevant information available for the site or area, and other conservation and management measures that have been adopted to protect VMEs pursuant to paragraphs 70 and 71. 49

69. States and RFMO/As should, in light of reports (as referred to in paragraph 67), and in accordance with developed protocols and Section 5.2, adopt or modify management measures, appropriate for the DSF concerned, in regard to the relevant site or area to prevent significant adverse impacts on the VME. 49

70. States and RFMO/As should, based on the results of assessments carried out pursuant to Section 5.2, adopt conservation and management measures to achieve long-term conservation and sustainable use of deep-sea fish stocks, ensure adequate protection and prevent significant adverse impacts on VMEs. These measures should be developed on a case-by-case basis and take into account the distribution ranges of the ecosystems concerned. 49

74. If after assessing all available scientific and technical information, the presence of VMEs or the likelihood that individual DSFs activities would cause significant adverse impacts on VMEs cannot be adequately determined, States should only authorize individual DSFs activities to proceed in accordance with: 49

i. precautionary conservation and management measures to prevent significant adverse impacts as described in paragraph 65; 49

ii. a protocol for encounters with VMEs consistent with paragraphs 67-69; and 50

iii. measures, including ongoing scientific research, monitoring and data collection, to reduce uncertainty. 50

(FAO 2008) 50

Monitoring, mitigation and management measures proposed by SPRFMO participants should address, and be compatible with, the above FAO guidelines, and must be designed to ensure that the overall risk of significant adverse impacts on VMEs and long-term sustainability of low-productivity fish stocks 50

Proposed measures should specifically include the following: 50

Monitoring arrangements should follow the guidelines provided in Section 8.2.7 - Information Gathering and Reporting, and the relevant SPRFMO Data Standards. 50

Proposed mitigation measures should include details on gear selection, design, modification or deployment to prevent or reduce adverse impacts on VMEs. 50

Proposed management measures should include details of the process to be used to detect evidence of fishing on VMEs, to implement the SPRFMO requirement to move 5 nautical miles away from sites showing evidence of a VME and measures to be implemented to prevent significant adverse impacts on known or likely VMEs. 50

If implementation of the above measures will be monitored by observers, then this should be cross-referenced in Section 8.2.7 - Information Gathering and Reporting, and details provided on the information to be recorded by observers. 50

This section should detail all data and information gathering and reporting systems that will be used to monitor the proposed fishing activities, catches and interactions with VMEs, including: 50

VMS positional information should be collected in accordance with the SPRFMO Data Standards. Provide details of VMS systems to be operated on vessels, including who these will report to, reporting frequency and reporting accuracy. 50

Details of catch and effort data collection systems to be used, including catch and effort reporting systems to the flag states concerned, and additional systems to be implemented specifically for the proposed activity. Report how these data collection systems comply with the SPRFMO data standards. These monitoring systems should specifically address how retained and discarded by-catches are to be monitored and reported. There should also be reporting systems in place to record whether a VME has been encountered during fishing. 50

Details of any scientific observer coverage planned for the proposed fishing activity, including levels of coverage, how deployments will be designed to achieve statistically representative coverage of the proposed fishing activities, and what information observers will be collecting. Observer data should be collected in accordance with the SPRFMO Observer Data Standard. 50

Description of the data that will be provided to the SPRFMO Secretariat for the fishing activity including, as a minimum, data required in terms of the adopted SPRFMO data standards, but also describing other information (e.g. seabed bathymetry or mapping, VME identification and characterization) that will be provided. 50

9. Provision of Geospatial Data 50

Many of the supporting analyses required to prepare assessments, to design management and mitigation measures or to monitor interactions of fisheries with areas containing VMEs require geo-spatial analyses. In particular, mapping of previously fished areas, mapping of bottom fishing footprints, mapping and evaluation of interactions with underwater topographic features or sites showing evidence of VMEs and monitoring of cumulative impacts over space and time necessitate the development of geospatial databases for the SPRFMO Area, able to support the required geospatial analyses. 51

9.1 SPRFMO Geospatial Database 51

The SPRFMO SWG has already identified a requirement for the SPRFMO Secretariat to develop and maintain a geospatial database containing the following information: 51

Detailed specifications for these data layers must be developed in cooperation between the SWG and Secretariat. 51

9.2 Geospatial Data Submission by Participants 51

To enable the Secretariat to maintain an updated geospatial database, and to allow the SWG to conduct the necessary periodic evaluation of data on sites showing evidence of a VME, all participants in SPRFMO bottom fisheries should provide the following geospatial data to the Secretariat on an annual basis, for the previous fishing year: 51

Additional geospatial data which should be considered for inclusion in future submissions could include high-resolution bathymetric data collected during fishing operations, visual records (e.g. drop-camera or video images) or results of scientific biodiversity and benthic community composition surveys. 52

10. References 52

11. Appendices 54

11.1 Appendix A. Rapid Assessment VME Evidence Form Example 54

11.2 Appendix B. Rapid Assessment VME Evidence Identification Guide 55






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