Explaining catch variation among Baja California lobster fishers through spatial analysis of trap-placement decisions
Abstract:Despite its importance to fisheries management, the spatial behavior of fishing fleets is poorly understood. Fishing captains continuously sample the environment and decide where to allocate fishing effort in a dynamic process influenced by a variety of ecological factors. I instituted a participatory, observational study of 15 teams fishing for the red spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus (Randall, 1840), in Baja California Sur, Mexico, where trap locations, lobster catch, and trap movement were recorded daily. I analyzed 8407 trap-placement decisions to quantify attributes of fishing strategies, including search frequency and Cartesian behavior, by interpolating maps of resource abundance based on fishers' own catch and using them to evaluate trap placement. All fishers preferentially placed traps in areas with higher catch rates the previous day, and the extent to which fishers did so explained season-wide differences in catch success. Other explanatory factors included the distance fishers moved traps that caught no lobsters, the number of traps checked per day, and the proportion of traps they used to explore new areas. Different attributes of fishing strategy were more important in explaining catch success in the two fishing areas studied, presumably because of different spatial relations of benthic habitats and their effects on lobster movement patterns. My results help explain catch variation among fishers, provide new tools with which researchers can evaluate the skipper effect, and are the basis for a theory of dynamics among marine habitat arrangement, resource distribution, and fishing strategies.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2010-04-01
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