Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Seamounts and fisheries - Conservation and sustainable use - First OASIS Stakeholder workshop, Horta, Azores, 1 2 April 2004

This report mirrors the presentations and discussions which took place during the first OASIS stakeholder workshop, April 1-2, 2004 in Horta, Faial, Azores.

OASIS (Oceanic Seamounts: An Integrated Study) is a EU-funded integrated seamount research project (2002-2005) aiming to describe the functional interaction of all seamount ecosystem compartments, except for the highly migratory visitors. OASIS also wants to improve knowledge, which is required for taking management decisions. The research focuses on two model seamounts of different summit depth, topography and fishing pressure, the Sedlo seamount 100 nm north of the Azores and the Seine seamount 100 nm northeast of Madeira.

The results from these in-depth studies shall be generalized as far as possible, driving conceptual and numerical models for enabling the extrapolation to less well studied areas. As a first step with regard to conservation, a more generic management plan for a seamount conservation area was developed, the ‘Offshore MPA toolbox’. In a second step, a model site-specific management plan will be developed for the Sedlo seamount, which will be presented to all stakeholders for discussion in fall 2005.

Ultimately, more general conclusions on seamount management shall be drawn.
The workshop was attended by some 40 regional, national and foreign participants from fisheries, government, advisory, NGOs and science. The first day of the workshop was an integral part of the annual Azores Fisheries Week, a major international meeting involving scientists, economists, politicians, lawyers, fishermen and fisheries representatives.

The presentations
- Introduced the OASIS project (Ana Martins, University of the Azores, DOP),
- Reviewed the knowledge on seamounts and seamount ecology in the North East Atlantic (Susan Gubbay, Consultant),
- Gave a scientific perspective on global and regional seamount fisheries (Telmo Morato, Gui Menezes, University of the Azores, DOP),
- Shed light on the ecological relationship between seamounts and visiting turtles (Thomas Dellinger, University of Madeira),
- Described the process of MPA designation on the example of Bowie Seamount (Kevin Conley, Fisheries and Oceans Canada),
- And reviewed past, present and future marine conservation scientific efforts in the Azores (Ricardo Serrão Santos, University of the Azores, DOP).

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to discussing the following issues:
- Seamount fisheries in the context of regional and European Fisheries legislation
- Management measures required for protecting seamounts (including MPAs)
- The knowledge base on Atlantic seamounts: trying to fill the gaps.

Until today, the seamount fisheries of the Azores and Madeira employ fishing techniques, which are basically low-tech, small scale and labour-intensive. Due to the recently changed access regime to the former exclusive 200nm fisheries zone of the Azores and Madeira (Western Waters Regulation, November 2003), a large part of the workshop discussions focussed on the fate of the island fisheries. The regional management system in place until now was considered to come quite close to a sustainable fishery taking account of the longterm health of the ecosystems supporting it. The EU Western Waters Regulation was seen as a top-down non-participatory, and scientifically not sound decision prioritizing the principle of equal access over the precautionary principle also inherent in the Common Fisheries Policy. Participants expressed their concern over the high probability of overfishing due to industrial fishing techniques and increasing fishing effort, resulting in significant consequences for the local Azorean economy.

Management measures regulating seamount fisheries were recommended to include effort and gear control in very specific, small-scale management units, rather than the statistical rectangles used at present. Pelagic fishing techniques were highlighted to cause high mortality rates of visiting sea turtles, cetaceans and seabirds. The pelagic fishing effort should also be quantified.

The existing gaps in knowledge on Atlantic seamounts were seen to call for more immediate measures being taken on a precautionary basis, since management failures would be more severe in a deep-sea environment. Most speakers regarded MPAs as tools that deliver risk reduction for species and habitats and offer integrated management of restricted resources, including fishes. However, surveillance problems were highlighted. A representative network of MPAs could resemble an investor’s portfolio.

The Azores, as the first European Region to have concluded a Management Sectorial Plan for the Natura 2000 network, are now involved in the preparation of new dossiers leading to the inclusion of deep-sea sites as SCIs under Natura 2000, some of which are individual seamounts. In view of this, seamount management should, from the beginning, be developed in close cooperation with stakeholders.

Reported by

WWF North-East Atlantic Marine Ecoregion (NEAME)
Am Guetpohl 11
28757 Bremen