Bottom fisheries are now to ‘avoid significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems’ in order to maintain the ecological structure and function of, particularly, deep sea benthic habitats. Noting the paucity of data on the ecology of these habitats, this paper provides a practical approach to develop and evaluate fishing strategies aimed at achieving this objective i.e. what is the most cost‐effective way that fishers might be able to collectively enact this resolution? The UNGA requirement can be translated into a simple operational objective: Maintain the quality of habitats above the level that can naturally restore the original structure and function within 20 years. It does not require habitats to be categorised as “vulnerable marine ecosystems” or “invulnerable marine ecosystems”, a categorisation fraught with difficulty. Instead, it means that habitats for which this would not easily be met would be more vulnerable than those for which the objective might be met most often. This paper develops a simulation model for this task, representing key properties of the benthic system such as mosaics of a number of habitats along with their rates of decay, recovery and connectedness between areas. The model has been developed for use by CCAMLR to evaluate, using computer simulations, proposed within‐season and post‐season assessment and management approaches. Most importantly, the model enables uncertainties to be captured in a straight‐forward manner to assist CCAMLR in maintaining its precautionary approach in managing Antarctic fisheries. The functions developed in this paper provide placeholders in the simulation framework and can be replaced when better functions are developed.
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