Bay of Biscay

Bay of Biscay

Map of the “Eastern Cantabrian Sea” case study area (adapted from Sánchez & Olaso, 2004).

 

The Bay of Biscay, together with the Iberian Atlantic coast, is a marine subregion comprised within the Atlantic Ocean ecoregion. It is included under the OSPAR Convention IV Region and includes several areas of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), such as VIIIa, b, c and d2. It is a deep sea (until 5,000 m water depth), with a narrow continental shelf in the Spanish coast and a wider shelf in the French coast, especially in the north of the Bay. It is a temperate sea, with high wave exposure, due to its long (>4,000 km) fetch.

 

The main human activities in the Bay of Biscay are fishing (both pelagic and demersal, including recreational, traditional and industrial fishing), coastal discharges (with an increasing waste water treatment in past 10 years), maritime transport (with important commercial harbours, e.g. Bordeaux, Bilbao, Gijón, Brest), dredged sediment disposal, etc., and some emerging (but still not very important) activities: renewable energy exploitation (waves, winds) and offshore aquaculture.

The South-Eastern Bay of Biscay includes essential habitats as spawning and feeding grounds for several fish species (e.g. hake, megrim, anchovy, mackerel) as well as for endangered species of birds and cetaceans. Species such as Phocoena phocoena and Tursiops truncatus are present in the study area and also included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive. Furthermore, the South-Eastern Bay of Biscay holds submarine habitats (i.e. pockmarks, canyons) considered of international interest by the above-mentioned Habitats Directive.