In order to adequately achieve CCAMLR’s conservation objectives and preserve the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean, a variety of ecosystems must be protected. This holds especially true for the benthic communities of this region that are characteristically mosaic in their distributions. As such, disparate communities cannot be assessed by a single blanket methodology, as explicitly expressed in CCAMLR’s Report of the Workshop on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (E-SC-XXVIII-A10, 2009) and as recognized by WG-EMM in previous years. Herein, evidence appropriate to the diverse characteristics of the communities encountered during this submarine expedition demonstrates the particular vulnerability of five sites that exemplify CCAMLR’s definitions of a VME. Three sites are proposed based on highly significant abundances of VME indicator taxa. One is proposed based on the observance of a high density and diversity of cold-water coral taxa not observed at the sites that were triggered as vulnerable by a high abundance of indicator taxa and, which are considered particularly vulnerable to climate change. One is proposed based on the last criteria set out in the Report of the WS-VME (E-SC-XXVIII-A10, 2009) that states that rare and unique populations should be considered highly vulnerable regardless of their habitat-forming characteristics. Finally, recommended amendments to CCAMLR’s VME Taxa Classification guide (Parker et al., 2009) - now almost a decade old - are provided.
Dr Jefferson Hinke (United States of America)
Dr George Watters (United States of America)