About this project

Several benthic habitats have been classified by the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) and by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) outside EEZ as vulnerable to human impacts. In Arctic and sub-Arctic waters (i.e. the North-East Atlantic, north of 62°N) these habitats include cold-water coral reefs, coral gardens, and deep-sea sponge aggregations. Despite the importance of the biological resources in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, and the increasing levels of human activities, a coherent compilation of knowledge of vulnerable benthic species within this region is lacking. There is also need of a good overview of fishing effort and other human activities that could affect benthic habitats. This lack of information makes it difficult to evaluate the risk of adverse human impacts on vulnerable benthic habitats and to suggest mitigation measures.


Within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the tree participating nations are cold and deep waters and diverse seascapes with both arctic and boreal species, including several categories of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). Fisheries are very important for these nations and a good management in relation to VMEs is much needed to secure the sustainable management of resources and the preservation of marine biodiversity.

The huge spatial extent, great bio-diversity and special oceanographic settings of these countries makes it important to exchange experience and knowledge about vulnerable habitats, suitable data analyses and the pressure of fisheries. The project aims to:

  • describe the distribution of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME’s) focusing on the Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, but also considering the waters between the Greenland Sea and the Norwegian Sea, and between 62°N and the Svalbard archipelago.

  • map the distribution of commercial fisheries and other human activities with potential impacts on VME’s,

  • identify potential conflict areas.

The project also aims to strengthen the relationship and collaboration between scientists from the participating institutions.

Work packages

WP1 Compilation of available information on vulnerable species and habitats and exchange of knowledge and research methods among the participants.

WP2 Compilation on human activities with potential impacts on the sea bottom and analysis of data from all participant countries.

WP3 Identifying geomorphological and oceanographic settings that might sustain vulnerable habitats.

WP4 Management implications and outreach