MEPS 311:1-14 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps311001

Global analysis of response and recovery of benthic biota to fishing

M. J. Kaiser1,*, K. R. Clarke2, H. Hinz1, M. C. V. Austen2, P. J. Somerfield2, I. Karakassis3

1School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales-Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
3Institute of Marine Biology of Crete, PO Box 2214, Heraklion 71003, Crete, Greece

ABSTRACT: Towed bottom-fishing gears are thought to constitute one of the largest global anthropogenic sources of disturbance to the seabed and its biota. The current drive towards an ecosystem approach in fisheries management requires a consideration of the implications of habitat deterioration and an understanding of the potential for restoration. We undertook a meta-analysis of 101 different fishing impact manipulations. The direct effects of different types of fishing gear were strongly habitat-specific. The most severe impact occurred in biogenic habitats in response to scallop-dredging. Analysis of the response of different feeding guilds to disturbance from fishing revealed that both deposit- and suspension-feeders were consistently vulnerable to scallop dredging across gravel, sand and mud habitats, while the response of these groups to beam-trawling was highly dependent upon habitat type. The biota of soft-sediment habitats, in particular muddy sands, were surprisingly vulnerable, with predicted recovery times measured in years. Slow-growing large-biomass biota such as sponges and soft corals took much longer to recover (up to 8 yr) than biota with shorter life-spans such as polychaetes (<1 yr). The results give a possible basis for predicting the outcome of the use of different fishing gears in a variety of habitats with potential utility in a management context.

KEY WORDS: Fishing impacts · Towed gears · Benthic habitats · Feeding guilds · Meta-analysis · Recovery time

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