Ecologically and economically sustainable mesopelagic fisheries (MEESO)
EUfishmeal is partner of the MEESO project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 (Blue Growth), 2019-2023
The overall goal of MEESO is to quantify the spatio-temporal distributions of biomass, production and ecosystem role of mesopelagic resources and to assess options to sustainably manage and govern their exploitation. To reach this goal, MEESO will create new knowledge and data on the mesopelagic community, its biodiversity, drivers of its biomass, its role in carbon sequestration, its role in the oceanic ecosystem and its interactions with the epipelagic community which includes several important commercial fish stocks. Besides applying state of the art experimental and quantitative methods, MEESO will develop and implement new acoustic and trawling technologies necessary for the knowledge and data generation in relation to this largely unknown and remote part of marine ecosystems. MEESO includes a significant amount of in-kind financing for technology development and scientific surveys.
MEESO will apply the new knowledge and data to determine the potential of the mesopelagic biomass to be sustainably exploited for products included in the human food chain. For the first time combining leading experts in science, engineering, fisheries and governance, MEESO will develop commercial fishing and processing technologies and mapping of contaminant and nutrient contents to explore the basis for a viable fishery and creation of jobs. Mesopelagic organisms represent one of the largest unexploited resource left in the world’s oceans, with a recent biomass estimate at 10 billion metric tons. The new tools and technologies, as well as assessment and management roadmaps, developed in MEESO will establish the trade-offs between exploitation, sustainability and viability of the resource, and identify options for its governance.
ICES explores the opportunities and risks of developing fisheries in the mesopelagic zone – click here
Known as “the twilight zone”, the mesopelagic begins where only 1% of light reaches and ends where there is no light at all. Typically, this means that the mesopelagic extends from ca. 200–1000 metres below the water’s surface.
Mesopelagic organisms (mainly fish and squid) have long been proposed as a potentially harvestable resource and estimates suggest that the mesopelagic realm could contain a total fish biomass on the order of 2-19.5 gigatonnes, roughly equivalent to 100 times the annual catch of all existing fisheries.
As a result, and in the context of feeding an ever-growing human population, there is an increasing interest in their use for human consumption, fishmeal, as a source of dietary supplements for humans, and to bio-prospect pharmaceuticals.
The latest issue of ICES Journal of Marine Science takes a closer look at the opportunities and risks associated with the exploitation of mesopelagic resources – click here (This issue has open access – free to access for all readers).
Drawing by Bas Kohler, source: ICES Journal of Marine Science