Scientia Marina, Vol 72, No 4 (2008)

Differences in demersal community structure and biomass size spectra within and outside the Maltese Fishery Management Zone (FMZ)

Mark Dimech
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, United Kingdom

Mattew Camilleri
Malta Centre for Fisheries Science (MCFS), Malta

Jan G. Hiddink
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, United Kingdom

Michel J. Kaiser
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, United Kingdom

Sergio Ragonese
Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero IAMC/CNR Section of Mazara, Italy

Patrick J. Schembri
Department of Biology University of Malta, Malta


We examined the protection effect of a long-established fisheries protection zone by studying the demersal communities and the biomass size spectra of specific taxonomic groups. The results and the relevant management implications of the community analysis are discussed within the context of the MEDITS trawl survey program, from which the data was derived. The demersal fishery resources on the muddy bottoms of Maltese trawling grounds were found to be stratified in four main depth ranges: 83 to 166 m (outer continental shelf), 140 to 230 m (shelf break), 270 to 440 m (shallow slope), and 466 to 701 m (deep slope). Significant differences were detected between the inside and outside zones of the outer continental shelf. Stations from this stratum inside the protected zone had twice as much biomass as those outside as well as larger individuals of some species (e.g. elasmobranchs). The depth strata identified do not coincide with those sampled in existing trawl survey programmes in the Sicilian Channel, which were set up without reference to demersal assemblage structure and its relation to depth. It is therefore clear that characterisation of the biotic assemblages is important in order to obtain a better sampling representation of each depth-stratum/assemblage type, and this should be considered in the survey design.


Sicilian Channel; biomass size spectrum; Maltese fishery; trawl surveys; Mediterranean Sea; demersal assemblages; Marine Protected Areas

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