In response to UNGA Resolution 61/105, SEAFO has made progress in protecting seamounts and vulnerable marine habitats from significant adverse impacts, caused by fishing.  SEAFO has defined its fishing footprint, closed 11 areas to bottom contact gears, implemented exploratory and encounter fishing protocols. Furthermore, new fishing areas(areas outside existing fishing areas) are subject to scientific assessment by the SEAFO Scientific Committee, prior to approval. SEAFO has closed approximately 505,000 km2 to bottom fishing. A coral and sponge taxa guide was developed by the Spanish Oceanography Institute (lEO) and the Marine Science Faculty at the University of Vigo (Galicia, Spain), for use by scientific observers operating in the SEAFO Convention Area.

Fishing areas

SEAFO defined bottom fishing activities, existing bottom fishing areas, new bottom fishing areas and exploratory fisheries. SEAFO mapped existing bottom fishing areas within the Convention Area for bottom fishing activities occurring between 1987-July 2011. Mapping of bottom trawling activity was given priority when delineating SEAFOs fishing footprint. The map and coordinates of existing bottom fishing areas and new fishing areas is contained in CM 30/15. The Commission revises, as appropriate, SEAFOs existing fishing areas on an annual basis.

Figure 1 – Composite map of existing bottom fishing areas

  • Exploratory fishing protocol

    All bottom fishing activities in new bottom fishing areas or with bottom gear not previously used are considered to be exploratory fisheries and are subject to Exploratory Bottom Fisheries Protocol (CM 30/15).

  • Encounter protocols

    Actions from encounters of VME indicator species above defined thresholds depend on the gear deployed. All encounters above the threshold levels are reported to Executive Secretary and vessels are required to cease fishing and move 2 nm. An interim closure or 2 nm radius is also implemented in new fishing areas (CM 30/15).

VME Taxa

SEAFOs Scientific Committee identified, in 2010, a provisional list of benthic invertebrate VME indicator species/groups for the SEAFO CA.

Group / Species code Phylum / Order / Family Common name
PFR Porifera Sponges
GGW Gorgonacea (Order) Gorgonian corals
AZN Anthoathecatae (Family) Hydrocorals
CSS Scleractinia (Order) Stony corals
AQZ Anthipatharia (Order) Black corals
ZOT Zoantharia (Order) Zoanthids
AJZ Alcyonacea (Order) Soft corals
NTW Pennatulacea (Order) Sea pens
BZN Bryozoa Erect bryozoans
CWD Crinoidea (Class) Sea lilies
OWP Ophiuroidea (Class) Basket stars
SZS Serpulidae (Family) Annelida
SSX Ascidiacea (Class) Sea squirts

Catches of VME Indicator Species

SEAFO scientific observers are required to record all locations where VME indicator species are caught. To date, no vessel has encountered by-catch above the thresholds.

Figure 2 - Map showing bycatch locations of VME indicator species in Sub-area B and Sub-area D (2010-2023)