To ensure that destructive bottom fishing activities do not have significant adverse impacts on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) in high seas areas of the World Ocean, as required by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 61-105, knowledge of the locations of VMEs is required. Quantifying the occurrence and abundance of VME indicator taxa in research bottom-trawl samples, as well as from in situ observations with underwater photography, provides methods for detecting these ecosystems. A case study is presented in which a threshold density of indicator taxa was used as the basis for VME designation. In 2009, high densities of VME indicator taxa were encountered at 11 sites off th`e South Orkney Islands in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. In most cases, thresholds were exceeded by a limited number of VME indicator taxa, primarily representatives of the class Demospongiae (siliceous sponges), Hexactinellida (glass sponges) and Ascidiacea (tunicates). In situ imagery further showed the importance of bryozoans (lace corals), scleractinians (stony corals) and stylastrids (hydrocorals) in the study region. The approach outlined here, which relies on widely used sampling techniques, could be employed throughout the World Ocean to detect and document the presence of VMEs from existing datasets. To illustrate this point, the method was applied to a separate dataset, collected in 2006, from a research cruise off the northern Antarctic Peninsula, which led to the detection of 17 VMEs. The VMEs from both the 2006 and 2009 data are now registered and influence the management of fisheries in the Southern Ocean.