Impact of a large-scale area closure on patterns of fishing disturbance and the consequences for benthic communities

TA Dinmore, DE Duplisea, BD Rackham, DL Maxwell, S Jennings

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167 Citations (Scopus)


Seasonal area closures of fisheries are primarily used to reduce fishing mortality on target species. In the absence of effort controls, fishing vessels displaced from a closed area will impact fish populations and the environment elsewhere. Based on the observed response of the North Sea beam trawl fleet to the closure of the "cod box" and an existing size-based model of the impacts of beam trawling, we predict the effects of seasonal area closures on benthic communities in the central North Sea. We suggest that repeated seasonal area closures would lead to a slightly more homogeneous distribution of annual trawling activity, although the distribution would remain patchy rather than random. The increased homogeneity, coupled with the displacement of trawling activity to previously unfished areas, is predicted to have slightly greater cumulative impacts on total benthic invertebrate production and lead to localized reductions in benthic biomass for several years. To ensure the effective integration of fisheries and environmental management, the wider consequences of fishery management actions should be considered a priori. Thus, when seasonal closures increase the homogeneity of overall disturbance or lead to the redistribution of trawling activity to environmentally sensitive or previously unfished areas, then effort reductions or permanent area closures should be considered as a management option. The latter would lead to a single but permanent redistribution of fishing disturbance, with lower cumulative impacts on benthic communities in the long run.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-380
Number of pages10
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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