High densities of vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) indicator taxa were encountered in 17 areas off the northern Antarctic Peninsula and 11 areas off the South Orkney Islands (CCAMLR Subareas 48.1 and 48.2). These areas, which have been proposed for inclusion in the CCAMLR VME registry, were detected during the 2006 and 2009 U.S. Antarctic Marine Living Resources Program surveys. The VMEs were detected in most cases utilizing occurrence and abundance of VME indicator taxa in research bottom trawl samples, as well as by way of in situ observations with an underwater photographic/video imaging system. Using standardized densities of VME taxa from bottom trawl samples, we propose one possible trigger level that could be used to provide a basis for notification of a VME, based on CCAMLR Scientific Committee deliberations and current CCAMLR Conservation Measures. We further present a breakdown of ‘heavy’ vs. ‘light’ VME indicator taxa with consequences on the proposed trigger, as well as the rationale for potential additional VMEs in Subarea 48.2 (not notified), based on rarity of taxa and/or uniqueness of community.
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