Seamounts ARE vulnerable marine ecosystems

Date: July 29, 2016

Source: Marine Conservation Institute

Author: Les Watling

The concept of a vulnerable marine ecosystem, commonly referred to by its acronym VME, in high seas marine conservation management is about a decade old. United Nations General Assembly resolution 61/105 called “upon States to take action immediately, individually and through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, and consistent with the precautionary approach and ecosystem approaches, to sustainably manage fish stocks and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems [VMEs], including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals, from destructive fishing practices, recognizing the immense importance and value of deep-sea ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain.”

Close up image of a brittle star with arms wrapped around an octocoral. Image courtesy of the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

But how to determine what is a VME? This is not an easy question to answer, but certain groups of animals are vulnerable to fishing gear, and so could be designated as VME indicator species. These are groups such as deep-sea corals and sponges that are very long-lived, easily removed or broken by fishing gear, and have low reproductive output.

Seamounts are very special places that often host VME indicator species. They are true mountains under the sea, defined as being at least 1000 m high, but often are 3 or 4 km in height. Because they usually originated as volcanos, they are made of rocks derived from basaltic lava, and provide a substrate on which corals, sponges, and other species can settle.

For more, please go to: