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Spatial ecology of Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus in Mediterranean deep-water environments: implications for designing no-take marine reserves

Maria Vigo*, Joan Navarro, Ivan Masmitja, Jacopo Aguzzi, José Antonio García, Guiomar Rotllant, Nixon Bahamón, Joan B. Company

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus is one of the most important marine resources for European fisheries. However, overfishing has caused the stocks to decline over the last decades, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea fisheries. The implementation of no-take marine reserves could revert current trends, thus achieving a more sustainable fishery. The effectiveness of no-take reserves depends on optimal size design, and because of this, new behavioural data on the spatial ecology of the species are of pivotal importance. Here, for the first time, we investigated the spatial movements and daily activity patterns of Norway lobster in a deep-water (315-475 m depth) no-take marine reserve of 10 km2 in the continental slope of the northwestern Mediterranean Sea, by combining acoustic-tracking and tagging-recapture procedures. The results unveiled the territorial behaviour of Norway lobster, centred in small exclusive individual areas where most displacements took place at midday. We found that once settled in a place, their home ranges reached approximate sizes from 17.75 to 736.25 m2, suggesting that no-take marine areas focused on recovering Norway lobster populations do not require large extents to be effective. Tag-recapture data indicated minimal over-spill of biomass, implying that Norway lobsters are site settled and do not perform large movements. Future studies focused on larval spread and recruitment would be necessary to focus on the possible over-spill benefit for fisheries. The acoustic telemetry system used in the present experiment effectively revealed the range of movement of individuals, and thus represents a promising monitoring tool to assess no-take marine reserve sizes and reciprocal spacing for deep-water demersal resources.