Conservation Measure 22-06, in the absence of site-specific or other conservation measures to prevent significant adverse impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems, requires specific actions to be taken when evidence of a Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem (VME) is encountered in the course of fishing operations. Monitoring fishing operations for encounters with evidence of a potential VME entails identification of specific taxonomic groups of invertebrates, such as sponges or corals. Identification of these organisms to the appropriate taxonomic grouping has not been a standard procedure, and no identification guide specific to both indicative VME taxa and Antarctic species has been developed. The objective of this guide is to provide observers on long-line vessels with a potential VME-taxa specific, quick, on-deck guide to aid in the classification of invertebrate bycatch into the appropriate groupings. The format of the guide is a “compare and contrast table”, using photographs and key characteristics to correctly classify likely VME taxa to the appropriate grouping. It also identifies those commonly mistaken for other taxa. It is printed as an A2 waterproof poster for display in the vessel factory or on deck for easy reference. Once classified, these observations can be used for monitoring evidence of a potential VME. Additional invertebrate identification guides are still needed for fine taxonomic resolution for all invertebrate bycatch.
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