Predicting the effects of area closures and fishing effort restrictions on the production, biomass, and species richness of benthic invertebrate communities

J. Hiddink, T. Hutton, S. Jennings, M. J. Kaiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


To effectively implement an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF), managers need to consider the effects of management actions on the fishery and the ecosystem. Methods for assessing the effects on target stocks are generally well developed, but methods for assessing the effects on other components and attributes of the ecosystem are not. Area closures and effort controls are widely used fishery management tools that affect the distribution of fishing effort and may therefore have consequences for a range of species and habitats. An approach is developed to predict the effects of area closures and effort control on the biomass, production, and species richness of benthic communities in the North Sea. The redistribution of beam trawling effort as a result of management action was modelled with a random utility model, assuming that fishers selected fishing grounds on the basis of their knowledge of past catch rates. The effects of trawling on benthic invertebrates were predicted using a size-based model that accounted for differences in habitat among fishing grounds. Our simulations demonstrated that closures of different sizes and in different locations could have positive or negative effects on benthic communities. These predicted effects resulted from the trade-off between recovery in the closed areas and additional trawling effects in the open areas that arose from displaced fishing activity. In the absence of effort controls, closure of lightly fished areas had the strongest positive effect on benthic communities. Effort reduction also had a positive effect. Therefore, area closures in lightly fished areas, coupled with effort reduction, are expected to minimize the effects of fishing on benthic communities. As it was not possible to access full international data for the North Sea beam trawl fleet, the results of the analyses are illustrative rather than complete. Nevertheless, what is demonstrated is an effective approach for assessing the environmental consequences of fishery management action that can be used to inform management decision-making as part of an EAF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-830
Number of pages9
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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