General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

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GFCM database on sensitive benthic habitats and species

The GFCM Database on sensitive benthic habitats and species holds information on the distribution and abundance of habitats and species considered to be indicators of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the GFCM area of application.

The database aims to store data and facilitate the analysis of all known VME indicator records (including absence data) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, covering deep water areas inside and outside national jurisdiction, for use by the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (SAC) and the Working Group on the Black Sea (WGBS) as well as the wider scientific community. The database contributes to the provision of scientifically robust advice to the GFCM on the distribution of potential VMEs in its area of application and supports the adoption of relevant management measures by decision makers. Analysis tools are integrated within the database (e.g. through RStudio online) and sample analytical scripts (in both R and Python languages) are put at disposal through dedicated repositories to users.  

The database is fed regularly by means of an annual ad hoc data call (January every year) with all available data from scientific surveys, monitoring activities and commercial fisheries regarding observations on habitats/species sensitive to particular fishing activities, i.e., VME indicators, including communities of hydrothermal vents/fields, cold water coral reefs and deep-sea sponge aggregations. 

Criteria to define what constitutes a VME have been produced by the FAO (FAO, 2009) and a VME encounter reporting protocol from fisheries in the GFCM area of application was adopted by the GFCM in 2018 (FAO, 2019). A list of deep-water Mediterranean VME indicators including taxa is also available (FAO, 2019). 

The database is hosted in the GFCM Extranet, and data are displayed on a map within the same webpage. Access to the database is granted only with credentials (username and password). Credentials can be requested via email to the GFCM Secretariat.  

Data confidentiality policy  

Users bear the responsibility of using and analyzing the contents in the GFCM database on sensitive benthic habitats and species for the sole purpose of facilitating the work of the GFCM scientific advisory committee on fisheries (SAC) and Working Group on the Black Sea (WGBS), including in preparation of dedicated expert groups.  

All data are displayed aggregated to a grid size currently set at 10km*10km. The data are classified as: 

  1. Public: upon download, data determined as publicly accessible are available in their ‘raw’, disaggregated, form. 
  2. Restricted: upon download of data determined as restricted, fields of information such as the coordinates are removed.