The seabed is being mapped


By:  PeMi

The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources together with other science institutions from Iceland, Faroe Islands, Norway, Russia, Canada and the US have been granted funds to develop a standardized protocol for monitoring bottom-living animals (benthos). The objective is to set minimum-standards for monitoring the status and trends of benthos in the Arctic-Atlantic. The program will provide a base of knowledge to be used across the northern Atlantic countries in the management of fisheries, nature and environment. It will act as a toolbox both for operators in the fishing industry and the management.


At the moment, only Norway and Russia have systematic monitoring of the seabed and only within their own territories. The seabed surrounding Greenland and the invertebrate fauna that live there have not previously been a subject to systematic scientific mapping, making it difficult still to assess the potential effects of trawl fishing and oil exploration in the region. This will now change.


“The life associated with the seabed is an essential part of the ecosystem. Organisms in the benthic habitat are considered an important food source to fish as well as the seabirds and mammals. In addition to being essential for the marine food web, the sea floor also constitutes an important habitat in terms of biodiversity. Approximately 90% of the more than 4000 invertebrate species that are currently known to inhabit Arctic Seas are living on the sea floor  and there is increasing attention on occurrences of vulnerable habitats with e.g. cold water corals and sponges” says Martin E. Blicher, senior scientist with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.


The initiative collaborates with parties from the Greenland fishing industry, who already have gained considerable knowledge during the MSC certification process, and the Ministry of Fishery, Hunting and Agriculture in Greenland. Greenland is obligated to meet certain conditions concerning the certification and to maintain the MSC certifications for shrimp and in the future a number of species of fish and shellfish, Greenland must continue to meet additional conditionss; including scientific documentation of the status and trends in the benthic ecosystem. Hence, mapping and monitoring of the seabed is considered a key part of potential future ecosystem-based fishery and environmental management.


The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources plans to incorporate the benthos protocol in its annual fish surveys.


The Nordic program participants are funded by Nordic Atlantic Cooperation (, The Nordic Council of Ministers and Sustainable Fisheries Greenland. The scientists responsible for the project are active in Artic Council through CAFF, Council of Arctic Flora and Fauna, and within CAFF in the CBMP workgroup – Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program.


For additional information: Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Senior Scientist, Martin E. Blicher. Phone: +299 36 12 00. Mail:

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Photos of benthic habitats at different seabed types on locations north of Upernavik. Photo: Martin E. Blicher