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Scallop Industry Helps Map The Seabed

UK - Scallop fishermen from across the UK are helping scientists and fishery managers with an initiative to produce more accurate maps of the seabed to improve management and protection of seabedhabitats.

The environmental concerns over scallop fishing tend to centre around the impact of dredging on sensitive seabed habitats. The lack of adequate information on the nature and distribution of seabed habitats is currently preventing effective management and has resulted in fishery and conservation managers being forced to impose closures on traditional scallop fisheries such as those in Lyme Bay, the Firth of Lorn and most recently Cardigan Bay.

With the help of Dr Andrew Woolmer, a seabed mapping expert, scallop fishermen have begun to collate seabed data of traditional scalloping grounds in Devon and Cornwall, and in Wales, using the powerful acoustic systems already fitted to many of their vessels. The scallop industry is currently developing a Code of Conduct promoting responsible scallop fishing practices that will afford protection to sensitive seabed habitats and species. A key part of this work is to demonstrate how fishermen can themselves provide seabed habitat information.

In a pilot study taking place off the South Devon coast, scallop fishermen have already provided Devon Sea Fisheries Committee with a wealth of seabed data from their own acoustic systems on board their vessels. This data has been used to produce a series of 3D seabed maps showing sensitive reefs and outcrops. These seabed maps are now guiding a series of joint video surveys using Devon SFC's underwater video system. Local fishermen will be assisting in the video surveys by providing vessel and crew time working alongside the Devon SFC officers.

Dr Woolmer said, "I am really surprised by the amount of high quality seabed information held by the scallop fishermen and this pilot study demonstrates just how data produced by fishermen can help to protect sensitive habitats and hopefully keep traditional fishing grounds open."

Devon SFC's Chief Officer, Keith Bower, said "We are impressed with the quality of information which has been forthcoming from the fishermen. This will be consolidated with our own data to build up a comprehensive picture of the whole of the seabed off the south coast of Devon. The next step is to ground truth the areas with underwater video in order to gain visual records of the seabed habitats. This is a prime example of the industry working with fisheries managers to help ensure that decisions about the future management of the inshore grounds are made with accurate information.”

the Fish Site Editor

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