This study aimed to identify the effects of different sieve mesh-sizes on processing time, the number of species retained, diversity measures and multivariate community analysis in the North Sea. Samples were collected at 63 sites throughout the North Sea and washed through two successive sieves, 10-mm and 5-mm mesh respectively. Processing time for whole samples (5- and 10-mm fraction) averaged 91± 25 min compared with 55±16 min for the 10-mm mesh fraction. Altogether 40% of free-living species and 9% of attached species were recorded exclusively in the 5-mm fraction. The majority of these species were rare. Spatial gradients of species diversity and community structure were identical, independent of the mesh-size used. Multivariate community analysis showed no significant difference between descriptions of community structure based on fauna from 10-mm or 5-mm mesh. The use of coarser sieving mesh would save time and money, if the aims of an epibenthic survey were to describe broad patterns of community structure and relative diversity. It would be possible to process approximately 50% more samples, if the time saved with 10-mm mesh were allocated to additional sampling. However, if information on single species is required, then sorting with the finer sieve mesh will yield crucial information. It was decided to employ a 5-mm mesh for epibenthic monitoring of the North Sea.