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No more detectable fishing effect on Northern Gulf of St Lawrence benthic invertebrates

Abstract : Trawling has been reported worldwide to alter seabed structure, and thus benthic habitats and ecosystems. Usually, a decrease in species richness and biomass is observed, and community structure is modified towards more opportunistic species. The Gulf of St Lawrence (Canada) has been intensely exploited since the 17th century, including net, longline, dredge and trawl fishing activities. Recently, the collapse of groundfish stocks induced a shift in fishing practices toward shrimp trawling, which is currently considered a sustainable fishing activity in the region. However, no long-term study has evaluated the potential effects of trawling disturbances on benthic mega-invertebrates. We investigated whether shrimp trawling had long- (ca. 20 years), mid- (ca. 10 years), and short-term (ca. 4 years) impacts on benthic mega-invertebrate taxa richness, biomass, and community structure. Scientific and fishery trawling data analyses showed that no significant long-, mid-, or short-term effect was detected on taxa richness. Significant but weak effects on biomass and community structure were detected at the mesoscale, i.e. at the scale of fishing grounds. In this long-exploited ecosystem, we suggest that a critical level of disturbance was attained by the first gear passages, which occurred decades ago and had irreversible impacts on the seabed by removing vulnerable taxa and structures that provided three-dimensional habitats. It is likely that benthic communities have subsequently reached a disturbed state of equilibrium on which current trawling disturbance has limited or no further impacts.
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Contributor : Olivier Savoyat Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, September 7, 2015 - 4:42:06 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 9, 2022 - 10:58:01 AM

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C. Moritz, D. Gravel, L. Savard, C. W. Mckindsey, J.-C. Brêthes, et al.. No more detectable fishing effect on Northern Gulf of St Lawrence benthic invertebrates. ICES Journal of Marine Science, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2015, pp.ePUB. ⟨10.1093/icesjms/fsv124⟩. ⟨hal-01194858⟩



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