MEPS 155:159-172 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps155159

Effects of bottom fishing on the benthic megafauna of Georges Bank

Collie JS, Escanero GA, Valentine PC

This study addresses ongoing concerns over the effects of mobile fishing gear on benthic communities. Using side-scan sonar, bottom photographs and fishing records, we identified a set of disturbed and undisturbed sites on the gravel pavement area of northern Georges Bank in the northwest Atlantic. Replicate samples of the megafauna were collected with a 1 m Naturalists' dredge on 2 cruises in 1994. Compared with the disturbed sites, the undisturbed sites had higher numbers of organisms, biomass, species richness and species diversity; evenness was higher at the disturbed sites. Undisturbed sites were characterized by an abundance of bushy epifaunal taxa (bryozoans, hydroids, worm tubes) that provide a complex habitat for shrimps, polychaetes, brittle stars, mussels and small fish. Disturbed sites were dominated by larger, hard-shelled molluscs, and scavenging crabs and echinoderms. Many of the megafaunal species in our samples have also been identified in stomach contents of demersal fish on Georges Bank; the abundances of at least some of these species were reduced at the disturbed sites.


Benthic communities · Fishing impacts · Habitat disturbance · Scallop dredging


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