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Can bottom trawling disturbance increase food production for a commercial fish species?

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Abstract:

Fishery closures and marine protected areas are increasingly being used as tools to achieve sustainable fisheries. The “plaice box”, a gear restriction area in the North Sea that was established to reduce the bycatch of undersized plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), is considered ineffective because there has been a shift in the distribution of juvenile plaice to the waters that remained open to bottom trawlers. Here we examine the hypothesis that bottom trawling benefits the small benthic invertebrates that form the food source for plaice and that the plaice box had a negative impact on food production for plaice. A size-based model of benthic communities indicates that the production of prey was low without trawling and maximal in areas that are trawled once to twice a year. Therefore, bottom disturbance may improve the feeding conditions for species that feed on small invertebrates. As plaice aggregate at the locations with the highest benthic biomass, this may explain the observed redistribution to areas outside the plaice box. We conclude that the plaice box may not have been the most appropriate measure to protect plaice from discarding and that the species’ ecology should be considered when choosing the most appropriate management measure to achieve an objective.

Les fermetures de la pêche et les zones de protection marine servent de plus en plus d’outils pour obtenir des pêches durables. Le « cantonnement à plies », une zone de restriction des engins de pêche dans la mer du Nord établie pour réduire la capture accessoire de plies (Pleuronectes platessa) de taille inférieure à la limite, est considérée inefficace car il y a eu un déplacement dans la répartition des plies vers les eaux qui restent disponibles aux navires de chalutage de fond. Nous examinons ici l’hypothèse selon laquelle le chalutage de fond favorise les petits invertébrés benthiques qui constituent la source de nourriture des plies et que le cantonnement à plies a un impact négatif sur la production de nourriture des plies. Un modèle des communautés benthiques basé sur la taille indique que la production de proies est basse en l’absence de chalutage et qu'elle est maximale dans les zones où il y a du chalutage une ou deux fois par an. C’est pourquoi, la perturbation du fond peut améliorer les conditions alimentaires pour les espèces qui se nourrissent de petits invertébrés. Comme les plies se rassemblent dans les sites de biomasse benthique maximale, cela peut expliquer le redéploiement des plies vers les zones extérieures au cantonnement à plies. Nous concluons que le cantonnement à plies ne s'est peut-être pas avéré être la méthode la plus appropriée pour protéger les plies du rejet à la mer; il faut donc tenir compte de l’écologie de l’espèce lors du choix de la mesure de gestion la plus appropriée pour réaliser un objectif.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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