Research Topic

Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and Deep-Sea Fisheries

About this Research Topic

While some deep-sea fish have been pursued by fisheries interests for more than a hundred years, true multi-national targeting of deep-sea fish stocks began in the 1960s, with total catch reaching a peak during the period 1975-2005. Because most fishery species caught were long-lived, slow-growing, and reproduced at advanced ages, exploited stocks quickly collapsed in many areas, especially those associated with seamounts. Altogether, deep-sea fisheries have accounted for less than 1% of the world’s catch of marine species since 1950. Bottom trawls were most commonly used to obtain the catch, but in some areas other bottom-tending gear was also deployed. Bottom trawls, especially, were seen to bring up large quantities of non-target species, including corals and sponges, among other species, leading the FAO to categorize those groups of organisms as indicators of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), the latter being areas that would take very long times to recover or possibly would fail to recover. Some of these areas have been investigated by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or towed cameras, with the images obtained showing the level of disturbance of the bottom community, while in other areas undisturbed VMEs are being discovered and documented in order to prevent future harmful impacts. It has become apparent that VMEs are widespread globally, providing key ecosystem services and the term is now commonly used to identify ecosystems that are vulnerable to anthropogenic impact in a more general sense, in science, conservation and management. For this Research Topic in Frontiers in Marine Science, we invite submission of studies that investigate the nature and categorization of VMEs, within as well as outside national boundaries. Important topics include proposals as to what constitutes a VME, how they can be identified and documented, investigations of the interaction of deep-sea fisheries with VMEs, and proposals for the mitigation of deep-sea fishery impacts of areas with VMEs. We will also consider studies that deal with the relation between VMEs and other types of anthropogenic activities such as oil and mineral exploitation. Studies investigating other disturbances and impacts on VMEs, including climate change and deep-sea mining are also welcomed. Abstracts to indicate interest are due 1 April 2019, with final manuscripts submitted no later than 1 September 2019.


Keywords: VME, Vulnerable marine ecosystem, Seamounts, Deep-sea fisheries, Bottom trawls


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

While some deep-sea fish have been pursued by fisheries interests for more than a hundred years, true multi-national targeting of deep-sea fish stocks began in the 1960s, with total catch reaching a peak during the period 1975-2005. Because most fishery species caught were long-lived, slow-growing, and reproduced at advanced ages, exploited stocks quickly collapsed in many areas, especially those associated with seamounts. Altogether, deep-sea fisheries have accounted for less than 1% of the world’s catch of marine species since 1950. Bottom trawls were most commonly used to obtain the catch, but in some areas other bottom-tending gear was also deployed. Bottom trawls, especially, were seen to bring up large quantities of non-target species, including corals and sponges, among other species, leading the FAO to categorize those groups of organisms as indicators of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), the latter being areas that would take very long times to recover or possibly would fail to recover. Some of these areas have been investigated by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or towed cameras, with the images obtained showing the level of disturbance of the bottom community, while in other areas undisturbed VMEs are being discovered and documented in order to prevent future harmful impacts. It has become apparent that VMEs are widespread globally, providing key ecosystem services and the term is now commonly used to identify ecosystems that are vulnerable to anthropogenic impact in a more general sense, in science, conservation and management. For this Research Topic in Frontiers in Marine Science, we invite submission of studies that investigate the nature and categorization of VMEs, within as well as outside national boundaries. Important topics include proposals as to what constitutes a VME, how they can be identified and documented, investigations of the interaction of deep-sea fisheries with VMEs, and proposals for the mitigation of deep-sea fishery impacts of areas with VMEs. We will also consider studies that deal with the relation between VMEs and other types of anthropogenic activities such as oil and mineral exploitation. Studies investigating other disturbances and impacts on VMEs, including climate change and deep-sea mining are also welcomed. Abstracts to indicate interest are due 1 April 2019, with final manuscripts submitted no later than 1 September 2019.


Keywords: VME, Vulnerable marine ecosystem, Seamounts, Deep-sea fisheries, Bottom trawls


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 April 2019 Abstract
01 September 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 April 2019 Abstract
01 September 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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