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Habitat suitability analysis and identification of potential fishing grounds for swordfish, Xiphias gladius, in the South Atlantic Ocean

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Swordfish, Xiphias gladius, is a highly migratory species of important commercial value and widely distributed in three oceans. Recently, the South Atlantic swordfish captured as by-catch in longline fisheries targeting tunas has contributed greatly to the overall Atlantic swordfish's landing. In this study, we have developed a habitat suitability index (HSI) model to examine the relationships between their spatio-temporal distribution and environmental factors and to identify potential fishing grounds for the swordfish in the South Atlantic Ocean using the Taiwanese distant-water longline fishery data and remote-sensing oceanographic data for 1998–2007. All the environmental factors considered – sea surface temperature (SST), mixed layer depth (MLD), sea surface height anomaly (SSHA), chlorophyll-a concentration (CHA) and ocean bathymetry (BAH) – were highly significant with most of the catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) variation explained by SST. The most optimum habitat (i.e. hotspot) was found in the areas with SSTs of 27–28°C, SSHAs of −0.05 to 0.05 m, CHAs of 0.1–0.2 mg m−3 and BAHs of −4000 to −4500 m. The arithmetic mean model with five environmental variables was found to be the most appropriate according to the information theory based on the evaluation of different empirical HSI models in combination with different environmental factors. The bimonthly geographic information system maps of the predicted HSI values were cross-validated by the observed CPUE, suggesting that the model can be used as a tool for reliable prediction of potential fishing grounds. Because the distribution and relative abundance of swordfish are sufficiently heterogeneous in space and time, the output of this study could provide a scientific basis for time–area closures based management of this species.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University, Taipei,106,Taiwan, ROC 2: School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono,ME,04469, USA 3: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Honolulu,HI, USA

Publication date: December 10, 2012

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