Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: Sea Floor Mapping on the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of Maine: Implications for the Management of Ocean Resources

R. A. Pickrill and B. J. Todd

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch30

Multibeam sea floor mapping technologies have provided the capability to accurately, and cost effectively, image large areas of the seabed. Imagery provides base maps of sea floor topography from which targeted surveys can be planned to map sea floor sediments and associated benthic communities. Over the last five years extensive multi-disciplinary surveys have been carried out on Browns, German and Georges Banks. The government of Canada entered into a partnership with the scallop industry to map bathymetry, surficial sediments and benthic communities. The new knowledge has been used by industry, and has implications for fisheries management. Associations between substrate type and benthic community composition have enabled precise maps of scallop habitat to be produced and links between scallop abundance and substrate to be established. The environmental and economic benefits have been immediate, with reduced effort to catch set quota, less bottom disturbance, and containment of fishing activity to known scallop grounds. Stock assessments and management practices are improved. Other pilot projects in Atlantic Canada and the northeastern USA have demonstrated the value of integrated sea floor mapping in designating marine protected areas (The Gully, Stellwagen Bank), in identifying offshore hazards such as landslides, in siting offshore structures, cables and pipelines, and in addressing environmental issues such as the routing of outfalls and disposal of dredge materials. In recognition of the power of these new tools and digital map products, Canada is considering development of a national mapping strategy to provide the foundation for sustainable ocean management in the 21st century.