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Can we gain new knowledge from the discarded fraction of the low-price commercial species of the bottom trawl fishery? An insight into the Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean Sea, Greece)

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Abstract

In the Mediterranean, one of the main reasons for discarding commercial species is when fishers catch fish smaller than the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS). In reality though, other drivers that vary by country/region have greater impact on the discarding process. A notable illustration of the coexistence of different motives is the Greek bottom trawl fishery. Present work focused on the spatial analysis of discards of three commercial species subjected to MCRS with low market price and often discarded independent of their size (i.e., Trachurus trachurus, Parapenaeus longirostris, Sardina pilchardus). To model and map the spatial distribution of species discards, hierarchical Bayesian spatial models were utilized employing discards dependence on environmental inputs. Further information was gained, by calculating the spatial overlap between the spatial distribution of species discards and their known nurseries. Results showed that S. pilchardus discards had the highest estimated values in shallower waters, whereas T. trachurus and P. longirostris discards were distributed over greater depths. Only a small portion of species nurseries and discard grounds coincided, verifying that the reasons behind discarding were market-driven. Area-specific and species-specific management is essential to reduce discards, since local market demand and fishing restrictions have an impact on the discarding process.

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Data availability

The data analyzed in this study are subject to the following licenses/restrictions: environmental data can be found in freely available databases, fisheries catch data are subject to restrictions and a specific request should be addressed to DG MARE and/or DCF National correspondents. Requests to access these datasets should be directed to https://datacollection.jrc.ec.europa.eu/.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all the people involved in the MEDISEH Project (MAREA PROJECT MEDISEH: Mediterranean Sensitive Habitats, Specific Contract No 2, SI2.600741) for data provision regarding the nursery grounds of Trachurus trachurus, Parapenaeus longirostris, and Sardina pilchardus. Also, we would like to thank all the observers and personnel involved in the field data collection processes that made this study possible.

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Although this work was part of Ms. Smaragda Despoti’s PhD, no funding was received for this specific analysis.

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SD: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal Analysis, Writing—Original Draft; KS, MG: Conceptualization, Writing—Review and Editing, Supervision; GT, VV, AA: Investigation; KT: Writing—Review and Editing; VV: Data Curation.

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Correspondence to Smaragda Despoti.

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Despoti, S., Stergiou, K.I., Tserpes, G. et al. Can we gain new knowledge from the discarded fraction of the low-price commercial species of the bottom trawl fishery? An insight into the Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean Sea, Greece). Hydrobiologia 851, 129–146 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-023-05318-z

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