Evaluation of the state of benthic communities subjected to impact of trawling and marine debris as a tool for the ecosystem management.

Bottom trawling is, doubtless, one of the major sources of damage to marine organisms and communities, either acting directly on the resources, or indirectly on the benthos and habitats. Another unquestionable threat to the benthic marine biodiversity is marine debris, and specifically, plastics, which originates and leads to changes in diversity, favouring a certain type of organisms against others.
Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of tools aimed at the efficient management these impacts on communities and habitats.

The main objectives of this project are, firstly, the estimation of fishing effort by means of side scan sonar (SSS) and a quantitative and qualitative analysis of marine debris (debris from fishing activity included), from bottoms under different levels of fishing effort. On a second phase, the response of benthic communities will be analysed using functional indicators in relation to gradients fishing effort and marine debris, and different indexes on ecological status will be developed. The use of ROV as an alternative and non-intrusive method for the evaluation of the communities is a novelty presented in this proposal.

Finally, a management pilot plan, based on the results, will be drawn up for the different stakeholders. One of the tasks to be undertaken is the dissemination of results in specialised organisations (fishing and maritime museums, …), and educative talks and seminars will be organised.