Benthic habitat integrity and benthos vulnerability

Sorting trawl catch. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Interactions, drivers and pressures 2016
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With retreating sea ice, new areas in the northern Barents Sea become available for fisheries, including bottom trawlers. Of special interest to WGIBAR is therefore the vulnerability analysis (Jørgensen et al., 2015). Current knowledge of the response of benthic communities to the impact of trawling is still rudimentary. The benthos data from the ecosystem survey in 2011 has been used to assess the vulnerability of benthic species to trawling, based on the risk of being caught or damaged by a bottom trawl (WGIBAR report 2016).

A clear decline in biomass was noted for all three categories when comparing trawled vs. untrawled areas. This suggests that trawling significantly affects the biomass of all species, but predominantly the “high-risk” taxa. Some Barents Sea regions were particularly susceptible to trawling (WGIBAR report 2016).