Identifying essential fish habitat for small pelagic species in Spanish Mediterranean waters
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Populations of small pelagic fish support important fisheries in Spanish Mediterranean waters, particularly sardine (Sardina pilchardus) and anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), and are distributed along the entire length of the Spanish continental shelf. Using annual acoustic survey data for the years 2003–2005, a GIS-based environmental modelling approach was used to investigate the distribution and abundance of small pelagic fish in relation to environmental variables. Multivariate analysis was applied to provide a preliminary picture of relationships between fish and environmental conditions, followed by application of Generalised Additive Models (GAMs). GAMs showed the presence/absence of fish to be related to bathymetry, sea surface chlorophyll-a concentration and sea surface temperature (SST). The strength and significance of these relationships varied spatially and temporally. High resolution Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) maps were generated for sardine and anchovy, based on the predicted probability of presence of each species. Substantial inter-annual variability in the distribution and quality of EFH was observed, particularly for anchovy. Identification of EFH is of great importance to assess and manage sardine and anchovy resources as it provides a natural link between population dynamics features and geographical scenarios.
KeywordsAnchovy Sardine Essential fish habitat Environment Mediterranean
The authors are obliged to the ECOMED scientific and technical crew of the R/V Cornide de Saavedra. Thanks are also due to Colin MacLeod and Manuel Vargas for technical contributions and comments. Alex Brown was funded by a studentship from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Andreas Palialexis was funded by the FP6 EnviEFH Project (No 022466). GJP would also like to acknowledge support from the ANIMATE project (MEXC-CT-2006-042337).
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