A step towards seascape scale conservation: Using vessel monitoring systems (VMS) to map fishing activity

  • Witt M
  • Godley B
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Conservation of marine ecosystems will require a holistic understanding of fisheries with concurrent spatial patterns of biodiversity. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Using data from the UK Government Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) deployed on UK-registered large fishing vessels we investigate patterns of fisheries activity on annual and seasonal scales. Analysis of VMS data shows that regions of the UK European continental shelf (i.e. Western Channel and Celtic Sea, Northern North Sea and the Goban Spur) receive consistently greater fisheries pressure than the rest of the UK continental shelf fishing zone. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: VMS provides a unique and independent method from which to derive patterns of spatially and temporally explicit fisheries activity. Such information may feed into ecosystem management plans seeking to achieve sustainable fisheries while minimising putative risk to non-target species (e.g. cetaceans, seabirds and elasmobranchs) and habitats of conservation concern. With multilateral collaboration VMS technologies may offer an important solution to quantifying and managing ecosystem disturbance, particularly on the high-seas.

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