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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 355:131-147 (2008)  -  DOI:

Improved trawl selectivity: effects on the ecosystem in the South Catalan Sea (NW Mediterranean)

Marta Coll1,*, Nixon Bahamon1, Francesc Sardà1, Isabel Palomera1, Sergi Tudela2, Petri Suuronen3

1Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37–49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2WWF Mediterranean Programme Office, Canuda 37, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
3Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, PO Box 2, 00791 Helsinki, Finland

ABSTRACT: We explored the potential ecosystem effects of improved selectivity in the South Catalan Sea demersal trawl fishery. A calibrated food web model representing current conditions of the ecosystem and selectivity data from recent fishing experiments were used to perform temporal dynamic simulations. This enabled the evaluation of direct and indirect impacts of fishing and provided insights into the sustainability of various management options for the trawl fishery. This fishery has the biggest fleet in the area, it is highly multispecies, and catches are largely composed of juveniles of target species and non-target species, which are often discarded in large quantities. Simulations indicate that improvement of trawl selectivity would have noticeable and complex direct and indirect effects on target and non-target demersal species. The biomass and catch of various commercial species (e.g. anglerfish, adult hake) would increase, while that of invertebrates (e.g. suprabenthos, Norway lobster) and juvenile and small-sized fish species (e.g. juvenile hake, blue whiting) would decrease due to higher predation mortalities and trophic cascades in the food web. Impacts on the pelagic compartment would also be noticeable. A slight increase in the mean trophic level of the community and of the catch is predicted, as well as of ecosystem biomass diversity. Generally, however, a greater reduction of fishing effort would be necessary for the recovery of highly exploited or overexploited demersal species. Trawling would experience moderate decreases in catches, while long-lining and bait-trolling would benefit. This work highlights the importance of including the mortality incurred during or post-escape from trawl nets when assessing the ecosystem effects of improved trawl selectivity.

KEY WORDS: Trawl selectivity · Ecosystem management of fisheries · Trophodynamic model · Ecopath with Ecosim · Mediterranean Sea

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Cite this article as: Coll M, Bahamon N, Sardà F, Palomera I, Tudela S, Suuronen P (2008) Improved trawl selectivity: effects on the ecosystem in the South Catalan Sea (NW Mediterranean). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 355:131-147.

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