Publication | Statement "Benthis nationaal": national implementation of fisheries impact assessment on the seabed ecosystem and how it affects fishing practices

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The Flemish fishery policy aims to make its fisheries more sustainable, which means, among other things, further addressing the problem of seabed disturbance. Concretely, this means that the results of the European Benthis project ( are applied and further elaborated for the Flemish fisheries. This approach - under the name Benthis Nationaal - aimed for a more correct assessment of the seabed impact by the Flemish fleet in an international framework and also to give the Flemish fishery and researchers the opportunity to follow more closely the scientific developments concerning the assessment of seabed impact at the European level and thus also to put its stamp on the European policy.

This report therefore provides an overview of the current knowledge and developments in seabed impact assessment and of what the fisheries policy can do to reduce this impact.

Determining the seabed impact from fisheries is done using two components:

1. the footprint of a fishing gear, i.e. the pressure the gear exerts on the seabed, is determined by the depth of penetration of the gear into the sediment combined with the spatial distribution of fishing activity with that type of gear;

2. the bottom sensitivity, i.e. the degree to which the bottom fauna is resistant and resilient to disturbance.

These two components form the basis of the assessment of seabed impacts by region. They are combined into a unified indicator. This assessment framework is clarified in detail and step by step in this report, and illustrated with numerous analyses relating to Flemish fisheries, including the economic implications.


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Jochen Depestele

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Gert Van Hoey

onderzoeker ILVO