, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 101-108

Fish production and the marine ecosystems of the Scotian Shelf, eastern Canada

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Abstract

Fishery production and food webs have been studied on the Scotian Shelf and upper continental slope along a transect running 270 km SE of Halifax, Canada. The area (TCNAF Division 4W) supports a fishery of roughly 0.15x106 metric tons. Overall primary production of the shelf waters is 102 g C m-2 year-1 and of the slope wacers about 128 g C m-2 year-1. Demersal fish production (average 4.1 kcal m-2 year-1) is highest over the shelf and declines in an offshore direction, while pelagic fish production (average 16 kcal m-2 year-1) is highest over the slope and declines in an inshore direction. Hypothetical food webs of these two intergrading ecosystems have been constructed, based on data for primary production, fish catches, and the biomasses of zooplankton and macrobenthos. These lead us to suggest that there are basic differences in food chains and efficiencies between the two ecosystems that account for their differences in production. Although primary production is 17% higher on an average on the Nova Scotian transect than in the North Sea, the apparent zooplankton and macrobenthos production is 31% lower and macrobenthos production may also be lower. Overall fish catch from the Scotian Shelf and slope is about 47% lower per unit area than the catch in the North Sea, despite the fact that the demersal catches are identical. This is accounted for by a much lower overall pelagic catch from the Nova Scotian area, centered in a region that is small compared to the total area. Fish production in different regions cannot be predicted merely on the basis of differences in level of primary production, but must take into account differences in the structure of the ecosystems.

Communicated by T. Platt, Dartmouth