Policy Support and Governance Gateway

Issue paper

Technical measures and environmental risk assessments for deep-sea sponge conservation

SponGES is a research and innovation project funded under the H2020 Blue Growth initiative. It aims at “Improving the preservation and sustainable exploitation of Atlantic marine ecosystems” and at developing an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use deep-sea sponge ecosystems of the North Atlantic. Reducing the impacts of deep-sea bottom fishing in the high seas on these ecosystems is an important element of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. States and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have implemented a variety of measures to avoid and mitigate impacts of deep-sea bottom fishing on sponges, and have established methods for ecological risk assessment. Specific information to inform these risk assessments is often lacking but SponGES spurred unprecedented research on deep sea sponges in the North Atlantic, resulting in improved knowledge and understanding of sponge distribution, ecological function, impacts of human activities and climate change, role in the deep sea ecosystem, and their potential economic contributions through biotechnological components. This publication serves as a comprehensive review of existing governance mechanisms to protect sponge ecosystem function in the deep sea. It also presents appropriate elements to be included in an ecological risk assessment of anthropogenic stressors, and contributes to producing a strategy to incorporate sponge ground functions into management frameworks.