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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 233:185-198 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps233185

Utilisation of invertebrates discarded from the Nephrops fishery by variously selective benthic scavengers in the west of Scotland

M. Bergmann*, S. K. Wieczorek, P. G. Moore, R. J. A. Atkinson

University Marine Biological Station, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae KA28 0EG, United Kingdom
*Present address: School of Ocean Sciences, Askew Street, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5EY, United Kingdom. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Demersal trawl fisheries generate large quantities of discards which temporarily increase the amount of carrion available to benthic communities and lead to a faster energetic turn-over. This study examines the availability of discarded material to the benthos, assesses consumption times of different items and identifies scavengers attracted to those invertebrates most frequently discarded from Clyde Sea Nephrops trawlers. In field and laboratory trials, heavy-shelled dead whelks (Buccinum undatum, Neptunea antiqua) sank faster than softer-bodied species like cephalopods (Allotheuthis subulata, Rossia macrosoma) or echinoderms (Ophiura ophiura, Asterias rubens), making most discards available to the benthos (at ca. -60 m CD [chart datum]) within minutes after discarding. SCUBA and time-lapse camera observations in the Clyde Sea and Loch Sween indicated bait utilisation times between 24 and 48 h. Fast-moving animals like brachyuran crabs were the first to arrive at discard bait piles whose composition mimicked typical discards from the Clyde Sea Nephrops fishery. Bimonthly deployments of traps baited with invertebrate discards in the north of the Clyde Sea showed that A. rubens, followed by Pagurus bernhardus, Liocarcinus depurator and whelks, were the most abundant megafaunal scavengers. Fine-meshed funnel traps deployed inside those creels yielded up to 2819 amphipods per trap, with Scopelocheirus hopei and Orchomene nanus accounting for most of the catch. Together with whelks, A. rubens and Carcinus maenas, O. nanus showed a clear preference for crustacean bait. By contrast, Pagurus bernhardus was more attracted to A. rubens and, in 1 trial, to O. ophiura bait. Traps deployed in the south of the Clyde Sea yielded generally lower numbers and species diversity in the catch, with Nephrops being the most abundant megafaunal scavenger. It showed a preference for L. depurator and conspecific bait. While the results show that a range of epibenthic species readily utilise invertebrates discarded from Clyde Sea Nephrops trawlers, it is unknown to what extent discards subsidise benthic communities as information on the ecological energetics of the species involved locally is currently lacking.

KEY WORDS: Carrion · Discards · Nephrops norvegicus · Scavengers · Trawling · Scotland

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