In the Belgian part of the North Sea (BNS) there are 141 fish species (Claus en Cuvelier 2004). Of these, a large number are strongly bound to the seabed. Benthic species such as flatfish (sole, flounder, plaice, turbot and dab) live on the seabed, while demersal fish such as cod, pouting and whiting seek their food on the seabed. Pelagic fish such as herring, sprat and mackerel, on the other hand, mainly swim in the water column.

Out of 141 fish species, 25 are of commercial importance in the North Sea region. These species are also heavily fished in the BNS by professional fishermen. In addition, recreational sea fishing also takes place in the BNS and test projects are underway for mariculture (Value@Sea, Edulis, Coastbusters). Fishing in a sustainable manner maintains a balance between impact on marine biodiversity and economic profitability. This has led to numerous legislation and directives that determine fisheries policy, such as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Habitats and Birds Directives (Natura 2000), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the European Directive for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSPD).

Data on fish and fisheries teaches us about the number, species and distribution of fish in the BNS. ILVO examines the Belgian fishery data and carries out its own surveys to evaluate the state of the stocks. Within the framework of LifeWatch, the behaviour and migration of a number of fish species (including cod, sea bass and eel) are mapped by means of acoustic telemetry. A network of receivers records the movements of fish equipped with an acoustic transmitter. This Belgian telemetry network is part of the European Tracking Netwerk (ETN). Data from fish detections are available on the LifeWatch data explorer.

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