Otolith chemoscape analysis in whiting links fishing grounds to nursery areas.
ABSTRACT: Understanding life stage connectivity is essential to define appropriate spatial scales for fisheries management and develop effective strategies to reduce undersized bycatch. Despite many studies of population structure and connectivity in marine fish, most management units do not reflect biological populations and protection is rarely given to juvenile sources of the fished stock. Direct, quantitative estimates that link specific fishing grounds to the nursery areas, which produced the caught fish are essential to meet these objectives. Here we develop a continuous-surface otolith microchemistry approach to geolocate whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and infer life stage connectivity across the west coast of the UK. We show substantial connectivity across existing stock boundaries and identify the importance of the Firth of Clyde nursery area. This approach offers fisheries managers the ability to account for the benefits of improved fishing yields derived from spatial protection while minimising revenue loss.
Project description:In the Strait of Sicily (SoS), a wide passage of the Mediterranean Sea, Parapenaeus longirostris, (Lucas, 1846; DPS hereafter) is the main target species of trawl fisheries, with an estimated annual market value of about 80 million euro. The exploitation of this resource is shared between Italian, Tunisian and Maltese bottom trawlers and its management raises social, economic and environmental interests. Recent stock assessment revealed high fishing mortalities and low size at first capture, thus promoting the adoption of a strategic plan for a sustainable management. However, the current knowledge of the geographical boundaries of the stock, supporting the implementation of such management plan is still poor. In this respect, under different hydrodynamic regimes, particle-tracking modelling was used to explore connectivity between both, known and unexplored, spawning and nursery areas of DPS in the SoS. Ensembles scenarios derived by model outcomes displayed decadal changes in connectivity between spawning and nursery areas in the north side of the SoS, hence confirming the presence of a single stock in this area. Expanding the area of investigation, the model results showed weak connectivity between spawning ground in the north side of SoS and nurseries on the African shelf-break. This method could support the spatial management of the stock, such as the protection of the nursery and spawning areas, by providing estimates of how connectivity is influenced by hydrodynamic regimes at different temporal and spatial scales.
Project description:Most European fishing fleets will need to drastically reduce their unwanted catches to comply with new rules of the common fisheries policy. A more practical way to avoid increasing on-board sorting time and issues linked to storage capacity is to prevent unwanted catches in the first place. We assessed the selectivity properties of an experimental fishing gear that combined a 100 mm T90 cylinder with 130 meshes in the extension and a 100 mm T90 codend of 33 meshes (experimental gear) compared to a 100 mm diamond mesh extension and codend (control gear) during commercial trips using twin trawls. Analysis of the relative size composition of catches indicated a significantly higher escapement of small fish of several target species (e.g. Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis, Melanogrammus aeglefinus, Raja spp, and Lophius spp) and non-target species (e.g. Capros aper and Gurnards spp) from the T90 experimental trawl compared to the control trawl (n = 49 hauls), resulting in a significant reduction of unwanted catches of Gadidae, Triglidae, and Caproidae. In contrast, non-negligible commercial losses of small grade target gadoid species were observed. Mixed general linear models showed that the proportion of ray, haddock and anglerfish retained per length class decreased with increased tow duration. The T90 experimental gear will perform at a commercial level when targeting monkfish, megrim, rays and large haddock, however fishers are not likely to use this gear when targeting smaller-bodied species such as cephalopods, small haddock, whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and hake (Merluccius merluccius), because the gear is likely to allow large numbers to escape. Selectivity studies often focus on a short list of target species; however, catches of non-target species under quota can be problematic for some fisheries. For example, under the implementation of the Landing Obligation catches of boarfish could choke the French whitefish demersal fisheries in the Celtic sea, as France has no national quota for that species. The device tested constitutes an efficient solution to mitigate catches for such non-target schooling fish.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The Firth of Clyde is a large inlet of the sea that extends over 100 km into Scotland's west coast. METHODS: We compiled detailed fisheries landings data for this area and combined them with historical accounts to build a picture of change due to fishing activity over the last 200 years. FINDINGS: In the early 19th century, prior to the onset of industrial fishing, the Firth of Clyde supported diverse and productive fisheries for species such as herring (Clupea harengus, Clupeidae), cod (Gadus morhua, Gadidae), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus, Gadidae), turbot (Psetta maxima, Scophthalmidae) and flounder (Platichthys flesus, Pleuronectidae). The 19th century saw increased demand for fish, which encouraged more indiscriminate methods of fishing such as bottom trawling. During the 1880s, fish landings began to decline, and upon the recommendation of local fishers and scientists, the Firth of Clyde was closed to large trawling vessels in 1889. This closure remained in place until 1962 when bottom trawling for Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus, Nephropidae) was approved in areas more than three nautical miles from the coast. During the 1960s and 1970s, landings of bottomfish increased as trawling intensified. The trawl closure within three nautical miles of the coast was repealed in 1984 under pressure from the industry. Thereafter, bottomfish landings went into terminal decline, with all species collapsing to zero or near zero landings by the early 21st century. Herring fisheries collapsed in the 1970s as more efficient mid-water trawls and fish finders were introduced, while a fishery for mid-water saithe (Pollachius virens, Gadidae) underwent a boom and bust shortly after discovery in the late 1960s. The only commercial fisheries that remain today are for Nephrops and scallops (Pecten maximus, Pectinidae). SIGNIFICANCE: The Firth of Clyde is a marine ecosystem nearing the endpoint of overfishing, a time when no species remain that are capable of sustaining commercial catches. The evidence suggests that trawl closures helped maintain productive fisheries through the mid-20th century, and their reopening precipitated collapse of bottomfish stocks. We argue that continued intensive bottom trawling for Nephrops with fine mesh nets will prevent the recovery of other species. This once diverse and highly productive environment will only be restored if trawl closures or other protected areas are re-introduced. The Firth of Clyde represents at a small scale a process that is occurring ocean-wide today, and its experience serves as a warning to others.
Project description:Nature conservation and fisheries management often focus on particular seabed features that are considered vulnerable or important to commercial species. As a result, individual seabed types are protected in isolation, without any understanding of what effect the mixture of seabed types within the landscape has on ecosystem functions. Here we undertook predictive seabed modelling within a coastal marine protected area using observations from underwater stereo-video camera deployments and environmental information (depth, wave fetch, maximum tidal speeds, distance from coast and underlying geology). The effect of the predicted substratum type, extent and heterogeneity or the diversity of substrata, within a radius of 1500 m around each camera deployment of juvenile gadoid relative abundance was analysed. The predicted substratum model performed well with wave fetch and depth being the most influential predictor variables. Gadus morhua (Atlantic cod) were associated with relatively more rugose substrata (Algal-gravel-pebble and seagrass) and heterogeneous landscapes, than Melanogrammus aeglefinus (haddock) or Merlangius merlangus (whiting) (sand and mud). An increase in M. merlangus relative abundance was observed with increasing substratum extent. These results reveal that landscape effects should be considered when protecting the seabed for fish and not just individual seabed types. The landscape approach used in this study therefore has important implications for marine protected area, fisheries management and monitoring advice concerning demersal fish populations.
Project description:An accurate description of trophic interactions is crucial to understand ecosystem functioning and sustainably manage marine ecosystems exploitation. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes were coupled with stomach content analyses to investigate whiting (Merlangius merlangus, Linnaeus, 1758) feeding behavior in the Eastern English Channel and Southern North Sea. Whiting juveniles and adults were sampled in autumn and winter to investigate both ontogenetic and seasonal changes. In addition, queen scallops (Aequipecten opercularis) samples were collected along with fish to be used as isotopic benthic baseline. Results indicated an ontogenetic diet change from crustaceans to fish and cephalopods. In autumn, ?15N values generally increased with fish size while in winter, a decrease of ?15N values with fish size was observed, as a potential result of spatial variation in baseline ?15N values. In winter, a nutrient-poor period, an increase in feeding intensity was observed, especially on the copepod Temora longicornis. This study provides further insights into whiting trophic ecology in relation to ontogenetic and seasonal variations, and it confirms the importance of combining several trophic analysis methods to understand ecosystem functioning.
Project description:Fisheries management systems around the world are highly diverse in their design, operation, and effectiveness at meeting objectives. A variety of management institutions, strategies, and tactics are used across disparate regions, fishing fleets, and taxonomic groups. At a global level, it is unclear which particular management attributes have greatest influence on the status of fished populations, and also unclear which external factors affect the overall success of fisheries management systems. We used expert surveys to characterize the management systems by species of 28 major fishing nations and examined influences of economic, geographic, and fishery-related factors. A Fisheries Management Index, which integrated research, management, enforcement, and socioeconomic attributes, showed wide variation among countries and was strongly affected by per capita gross domestic product (positively) and capacity-enhancing subsidies (negatively). Among 13 management attributes considered, three were particularly influential in whether stock size and fishing mortality are currently in or trending toward desirable states: extensiveness of stock assessments, strength of fishing pressure limits, and comprehensiveness of enforcement programs. These results support arguments that the key to successful fisheries management is the implementation and enforcement of science-based catch or effort limits, and that monetary investment into fisheries can help achieve management objectives if used to limit fishing pressure rather than enhance fishing capacity. Countries with currently less-effective management systems have the greatest potential for improving long-term stock status outcomes and should be the focus of efforts to improve fisheries management globally.
Project description:Consumption of raw or thermally inadequately treated fishery products represents a public health risk, with the possibility of propagation of live Anisakis larvae, the causative agent of the zoonotic disease anisakidosis, or anisakiasis. We investigated the population dynamics of Anisakis spp. in commercially important fish-anchovies (Anisakis), sardines (Sardina pilchardus), European hake (Merluccius merluccius), whiting (Merlangius merlangus), chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus), and Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)-captured in the main Adriatic Sea fishing ground. We observed a significant difference in the numbers of parasite larvae (1 to 32) in individual hosts and between species, with most fish showing high or very high Anisakis population indices. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed that commercial fish in the Adriatic Sea are parasitized by Anisakis pegreffii (95.95%) and Anisakis simplex sensu stricto (4.05%). The genetic structure of A. pegreffii in demersal, pelagic, and top predator hosts was unstructured, and the highest frequency of haplotype sharing (n = 10) was between demersal and pelagic fish.
Project description:Understanding spatial distributions of fish species is important to those seeking to manage fisheries and advise on marine developments. Distribution patterns, habitat use, and aggregative behaviour often vary throughout the life cycle and can increase the vulnerability of certain life stages to anthropogenic impacts. Here we investigate distribution changes during the life cycle of whiting (Merlangius merlangus) to the west of the UK. Density distributions for age-0, age-1 and mature fish were modelled as functions of environmental variables using generalised additive mixed effects models. The greatest densities of age-0 whiting occurred over finer sediments where temperatures were between 12 to 13°C. Age-0 whiting densities decreased with increasing depth. Higher densities of age-1 whiting were also associated with fine sediments and peaked at 60 m, but this influence was also dependent on proximity to shore. Mature fish, while showing no association with any particular sediment type, were strongly associated with depths >60 m. Geostatistical aggregation curves were used to classify space use and showed persistent aggregations of age-0 whiting occupying inshore waters while age-1 and mature fish were more dispersed and differed among years. The differences in distributions among life stages suggested a general coastal to offshore shift as cohorts developed with mature whiting mainly occupying deep offshore waters. The spatial dynamics and areas of persistent life stage aggregation identified here could enable informed targeting and avoidance of specific age-class whiting to aid bycatch reduction. Given that landing obligation legislation is counterproductive unless it encourages greater fishing selectivity, the ability to avoid this species and undersized individuals would aid conservation measures and fishermen alike.
Project description:Overfishing is a primary cause of population declines for many shark species of conservation concern. However, means of obtaining information on fishery interactions and mortality, necessary for the development of successful conservation strategies, are often fisheries-dependent and of questionable quality for many species of commercially exploited pelagic sharks. We used satellite telemetry as a fisheries-independent tool to document fisheries interactions, and quantify fishing mortality of the highly migratory shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Forty satellite-tagged shortfin mako sharks tracked over 3 years entered the Exclusive Economic Zones of 19 countries and were harvested in fisheries of five countries, with 30% of tagged sharks harvested. Our tagging-derived estimates of instantaneous fishing mortality rates (F = 0.19-0.56) were 10-fold higher than previous estimates from fisheries-dependent data (approx. 0.015-0.024), suggesting data used in stock assessments may considerably underestimate fishing mortality. Additionally, our estimates of F were greater than those associated with maximum sustainable yield, suggesting a state of overfishing. This information has direct application to evaluations of stock status and for effective management of populations, and thus satellite tagging studies have potential to provide more accurate estimates of fishing mortality and survival than traditional fisheries-dependent methodology.
Project description:As pressure on coastal marine resources is increasing globally, the need to quantitatively assess vulnerable fish stocks is crucial in order to avoid the ecological consequences of stock depletions. Species of Sciaenidae (croakers, drums) are important components of tropical and temperate fisheries and are especially vulnerable to exploitation. The black-spotted croaker, Protonibea diacanthus, is the only large sciaenid in coastal waters of northern Australia where it is targeted by commercial, recreational and indigenous fishers due to its food value and predictable aggregating behaviour. Localized declines in the abundance of this species have been observed, highlighting the urgent requirement by managers for information on fine- and broad-scale population connectivity. This study examined the population structure of P. diacanthus across north-western Australia using three complementary methods: genetic variation in microsatellite markers, otolith elemental composition and parasite assemblage composition. The genetic analyses demonstrated that there were at least five genetically distinct populations across the study region, with gene flow most likely restricted by inshore biogeographic barriers such as the Dampier Peninsula. The otolith chemistry and parasite analyses also revealed strong spatial variation among locations within broad-scale regions, suggesting fine-scale location fidelity within the lifetimes of individual fish. The complementarity of the three techniques elucidated patterns of connectivity over a range of spatial and temporal scales. We conclude that fisheries stock assessments and management are required at fine scales (100 s of km) to account for the restricted exchange among populations (stocks) and to prevent localized extirpations of this species. Realistic management arrangements may involve the successive closure and opening of fishing areas to reduce fishing pressure.