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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 182:119-126 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps182119

Effects of trawling on seafloor habitat and associated invertebrate taxa in the Gulf of Alaska

Lincoln Freese1,*, Peter J. Auster2, Jonathan Heifetz1, Bruce L. Wing1

1Auke Bay Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 11305 Glacier Highway, Juneau, Alaska 99801-8626, USA
2National Undersea Research Center for the North Atlantic & Great Lakes, University of Connecticut at Avery Point, Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA

ABSTRACT: Short-term effects of bottom trawling on a 'hard-bottom' (pebble, cobble, and boulder) seafloor were studied on the outer continental shelf in the eastern Gulf of Alaska. Eight sites were trawled in August 1996; then, from a research submersible we videotaped each trawl path and a nearby reference transect to obtain quantitative data. Boulders were displaced, and large epifaunal invertebrates were removed or damaged by a single trawl pass. These structural components of habitat were the dominant features on the seafloor. There was a significant decrease in density, and an increase in damage, to sponges and anthozoans in trawled versus reference transects. Changes in density, or damage to most motile invertebrates were not detected. Delayed mortality, of apparently undamaged invertebrates, may have resulted in greater impact than we detected. Alternatively, over time, some invertebrates may have recovered from any damage previously suffered. A subsequent survey at these sites will address these questions.

KEY WORDS: Trawling impacts · Occupied submersible · Seafloor habitat · Mobile fishing gear · Invertebrate bycatch

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