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Demersal fish group meets at IFREMER in Brest

On 16-17 August 2002 a sub-group of MAR-ECO partners met in Brest to draft a component project description concerned with demersal fish distribution and diversity.
Participants were (from left) Pascal Lorance (France), Odd Aksel Bergstad (Norway), Maurice Clarke (Ireland), and Franz Uiblein (Austria, MAR-ECO demersal nekton co-ordinator).

A draft was produced for circulation among a wider group of prospective partners.

Much of what we know about the distribution and species composition of deep-sea fishes in the Atlantic stems from trawl or longline sampling in restricted areas of the continental slopesor from either old or poorly accessible sources. The understanding of the occurrence and distribution patterns of demersal fishes on the mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) actually remains very limited. There are scientifically challenging basic questions regarding the evolution of biodiversity of bottom-associated fauna in highly structured slope waters and on mid-ocean ridges. But also, in order to provide better baseline data for e.g. habitat management and conservation of demersal fish assemblages, there is a urgent need for exploratory efforts.
This is the basis of the proposed study DN1 under the MAR-ECO project, and the central questions asked are the following:

1)Which demersal fish species live on the MAR ?
2)What are their relative abundances and habitat preferences ?
3)Are there discernible assemblages, and what are their distribution characteristics ?
4)How do species compositions and distribution patterns compare with those observed in slope waters of the adjacent continents?

A diverse array of modern sampling and analytical techniques, the best competence in fish taxonomy and systematics, modern statistical analyses and modelling of distribution patterns, community and population structure shall be utilized to address these questions. The project shall also review and systematise old data, and comparisons with results from adjacent continental slope waters will be carried out. Most of the work will focus on three MAR-ECO Sub-areas on the MAR, and in particular in the Charlie-Gibbs fracture zone (middle sub-area). Modern ships will operate in these sub-areas in 2003-2005.

The study has three phases; Phase 1 which is preparatory (2002-2003), Phase 2 which is the field phase 2003-2005, and Phase 3 (2004-2008) which is devoted to analyses and dissemination of results.

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