Assessment of the interactions between corals, fish and fisheries, in order to develop monitoring and predictive modelling tools for ecosystem based management in the deep waters of Europe and beyond.
The CoralFISH project aims to support the implementation of an ecosystem-based management approach in the deep-sea by studying the interaction between cold-water coral habitat, fish and fisheries. Within the CoralFish project, multidisciplinary research cruises will be carried out in areas around Zakynthos and Cephalonia involving fisheries biologists, marine biologists, geologists and oceanographers.
The seabed will be mapped and surveyed with high technology imaging tools including multibeam sonar, side scan sonar and remotely operated vehicles, to locate areas of corals and to identify the key organisms and the conditions that they live in. Further cruises will be carried out to investigate the fish communities and their behaviour around the coral areas by ROV observation and long-line fishing studies. The project will last over 4 years and brings together 16 participating institutions from 11 European countries investigating study sites from Northern Europe to the Azores and from Italy to Greece in the Mediterranean.
The information collected in Greece, along with data from the other sites, will be used by the project participants to: (1) develop essential methodologies and indicators for baseline monitoring of closed areas, (2) integrate fish into coral ecosystem models to understand coral fish-carrying capacity, (3) evaluate the distribution of deepwater bottom fishing effort to identify areas of potential interaction and impact upon coral habitat, (4) use genetic fingerprinting to assess the potential erosion of genetic fitness of corals due to long-term exposure to fishing impacts, (5) construct bio-economic models to assess management effects on corals and fisheries to provide policy options, (6) produce as a key output, habitat suitability maps to identify areas likely to contain vulnerable habitat.