Structure in a sea of sand: Fish abundance in relation to man-made structures in the North Sea

Serena R. Wright, Christopher P. Lynam, David A. Righton, Julian Metcalfe, Ewan Hunter, Ainsley Riley, Luz Garcia, Paulette Posen, Kieran Hyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial structures in the marine environment may have direct and/or indirect impact on the behaviour and space use of mobile foragers. This study explores whether environmental and physical features in the North Sea-including artificial structures (wrecks, wind turbines, cables, and oil and gas structures) were associated with local abundance of three fish species: cod (Gadus morhua), plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), and thornback ray (Raja clavata). Generalized additive models (GAMs) were used to compare distributions between data collected by fisheries surveys and electronic tags. Distributions of cod, plaice, and ray were correlated with environmental variables including temperature, depth, and substrate, matching findings from previous studies. All species showed seasonal increases in their abundance in areas with high densities of artificial structures, including oil and gas platforms and wrecks. Independent of whether fish purposefully associate with these features or whether structures happen to coincide with locations frequented by these populations, the strong association suggests that greater consideration needs to be given to regulation of habitat alterations, including decommissioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1206-1218
Number of pages13
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • archival tags
  • artificial structures
  • fish abundance
  • oil and gas

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