, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp 1190-1199
Date: 17 Nov 2006

Indicators of the Ecological Impact of Bottom-Trawl Disturbance on Seabed Communities

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Abstract

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries requires that managers take account of the environmental impacts of fishing. We develop linked state and pressure indicators that show the impact of bottom-trawling on benthic communities. The state indicator measures the proportion of an area where benthic invertebrate biomass (B) or production (P) is more than 90% of pristine benthic biomass (B 0.9) or production (P0.9). The pressure indicator measures the proportion of the area where trawling frequency is sufficiently high to prevent reaching predicted B0.9 or P0.9. Time to recovery to B0.9 and P0.9 after trawling, depending on the habitat, was estimated using a validated size-based model of the benthic community. Based on trawling intensity in 2003, 53.5% of the southern North Sea was trawled too frequently for biomass to reach B0.9, and 27.1% was trawled too frequently for production to reach P0.9. As a result of bottom-trawling in 2003, in 56% of the southern North Sea benthic biomass was below B0.9, whereas in 27% of the southern North Sea benthic production was below P0.9. Modeled recovery times were comparable to literature estimates (2.5 to more than 6 years). The advantages of using the area with an ecological impact of trawling as a pressure indicator are that it is conceptually easy to understand, it responds quickly to changes in management action, it can be implemented at a relevant scale for fisheries management, and the necessary effort distribution data are centrally collected. One of this approach’s greatest utilities, therefore, will be to communicate to policy makers and fishing enterprises the expected medium- to long-term ecological benefits that will accrue if the frequency of trawling in particular parts of fishing grounds is reduced.