Evaluation of a U.S. West coast groundfish habitat conservation regulation via analysis of spatial and temporal patterns of trawl fishing efforts Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8s45qd02m

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  • Recent emphasis on linkages between essential fish habitat and fish stock productivity has raised concerns about the management of fishing activities such as trawling, which have the potential to impact fish habitat. Knowing specifically where and how intensively trawl effort has occurred over time provides ecologists with the necessary background for habitat impact and recovery studies, and provides fishery managers with an assessment of how habitat conservation objectives are being met. The objectives of this study were to (1) examine the extent to which the 2000 Pacific Fishery Management Council footrope restriction has shifted and reduced trawl fishing effort on Oregon fishing grounds, (2) to relate these changes in distribution to the benthic habitat type over which they occur, and (3) to develop methods for enhancing fine-scale spatial review of targeted fishing effort. Density analysis of available trawl start locations provided a spatial and temporal understanding of how fishing efforts increased and decreased in relation to habitat distribution and fishery management actions between 1995 and 2002. Trawl effort patterns exhibit significant inter-annual variability and patchy distribution. Areas of increased fishing effort were still evident between years, despite an overall decline in trawl tows across the time scale of this study. Tow end point locations for the years 1998-2001 were retrieved from manual logbooks for five reference sites located in the proximity of rock habitat features. Trawl towlines were mapped from start to end point and demonstrated a marked enhancement of fine-scale fishing effort resolution, with increased ability to identify effort shifts over benthic habitat. Distinct spatial shifts in fishing intensity (measured as km towed) away from rock habitat were evident at all reference sites, with an average reduction of 86%. Some slight shifts into surrounding unconsolidated sediments also occurred, indicating effort displacement as well as reduction. Fishing intensity was calculated from commercial trawl and research trawl survey towlines to achieve the most accurate assessment of fishing impacts and potential habitat recovery areas. Research trawling intensity was less than 1% of commercial trawl effort originating from the same sites. A brief comparison of Oregon vessel towlines and California vessel towlines demonstrated similar targeted fishing patterns by both fleets, except at one site. Results indicate that the footrope restriction, in conjunction with associated landing limits, was effective in protecting rocky habitats from trawl fishing impacts. Reference areas were identified where essential fish habitat (EFH) recovery is likely occurring off the coast of Oregon. Substantial regulatory changes continue in this fishery, with trip limits and gear restrictions continuously adjusted. Continued monitoring and review of spatial trawl data would assist in fishery management decision-making and assess conservation objectives for depleted groundfish and associated habitats. Future research should incorporate analysis of catch data and expand the review of trawl towlines for the entire US West coast groundfish fishery. The trawl towline spatial analysis developed in this work is a credible method for reviewing fishing effort at the scale of the fishery and in relation to detailed habitat data. The research presented here provides an example of how an interdisciplinary approach and critical assessment of data can work to resolve marine management challenges.
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