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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 188:13-20 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps188013

Long-term changes in the benthos on a heavily fished ground off the NE coast of England

C.L.J. Frid*, R.A. Clark, J.A. Hall**

University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Dove Marine Laboratory, Cullercoats, North Shields NE30 4PZ, United Kingdom
**Present address: Baroid Ltd, St. Magnus House, Guild Street, Aberdeen AB11 6NJ, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: Long-term monitoring of 2 benthic stations off the Northumberland coast, NE England, at 80 and 55 m depth, has been carried out since 1971. The 80 m station is located within a Nephrops norvegicus fishing ground, while the 55 m station is located outside of the main fished area. In this study we compare the fauna of the heavily fished site with that of the shallower site over a period during which fishing effort changed. Changes in macrofaunal abundance at the station outside the fishing ground reflected changes in organic input. This was also the case at the fished station except during the period of highest fishing activity when this relationship broke down. This suggests that the dynamics of the macrobenthos at this station were influenced by fishing activity. Individual taxa were categorised a priori, based on literature accounts of their response to fishing. At the site outside the fishing ground the proportion of individuals predicted a priori to increase and that predicted to decrease in response to the direct effects of fishing did not vary. At the heavily fished station the increase in fishing effort in the early 1980s did not alter the abundance of the taxa predicted to decline, but the abundance of individuals in taxonomic groups predicted to increase did change in the predicted direction. The differences in the dynamics of the 2 stations, which differed in their fishing intensity, provide some evidence for a role of direct effects of fishing in determining the abundance and composition of coastal macrofauna.

KEY WORDS: Benthos · Fishing impacts · Time series · Macrofauna · Species composition

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