Workshop on Assessing the Impact of Fishing on Oceanic Carbon (WKFISHCARBON; outputs from 2023 meeting).

The Workshop on Assessing the Impact of Fishing on Oceanic Carbon (WKFISHCARBON) was set up to provide ICES and stakeholders with a summary of knowledge on the role of fishing in the process of carbon budgets, sequestration and footprint in the ocean. The workshop addressed the potential impact of fishing on the biological carbon pump (BCP), the possible impacts of bottom trawling on carbon stores in the seabed, as well as considering emissions from fishing vessels. The overall aim was to generate proposals on how to develop an ICES approach to fishing and its role in the ocean carbon budget, and to develop a roadmap for a way forward.
The main findings were that knowledge of the BCP in the open ocean was reasonably well developed, but that key gaps existed. In particular, information on the biomass of mesopelagic fish and other biota, and of some of the key processes e.g. fluxes and fish bioenergetics. Knowledge is much weaker for the BCP in shelf seas, where the bulk of fishing occurs. In particular, while biomass of fish was often well quantified, unlike the open ocean, the understanding of the important processes was lacking, particularly for the fate of faecal pellets and deadfall at the seabed.
There is extensive scientific knowledge of the impact of fishing on the seabed, but what is un-clear is what it means for seabed carbon storage. There have been numbers of studies, which give a very divided view on this. There has also been open controversy about this in the literature. Physical disturbance to the seabed from fishing can affect sediment transport and has the potential to facilitate remineralization, but precise impacts will depend on habitat, fishing métier, and other environmental factors. From this, it is clear that more research is needed to resolve the controversy, and to quantify the impacts from different fishing gears and on different substrates or habitats in terms of carbon storage.
There has been much more research on minimizing fuel use by fishing vessels, and hence emissions, but this has mainly focused on fuel efficiency, fuel use per unit of landed catch, and less on the total emissions. Baselines for fuel use are available at the global level, but are lacking at the national and vessel level. There is a need for standardization of methodologies and protocols, and for improving the uptake of fuel conservation measures by industry, as well as for improving the uptake of existing and potential fuel conservation and efficiency measures by industry.
Finally, a roadmap was proposed to develop research and synthesis, on the understandings of the processes involved, the metrics and how to translate this into possible advice for policy-makers. To that end, a further workshop was proposed in 2024.


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ICES (2024). Workshop on Assessing the Impact of Fishing on Oceanic Carbon (WKFISHCARBON; outputs from 2023 meeting). ICES Scientific Reports/Rapports scientifiques du CIEM. 6 (12). 63p..

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