Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No S1 (2014)

Trawling disturbance on benthic ecosystems and consequences on commercial species: a northwestern Mediterranean case study

Alba Muntadas
Institut de Ciencies del Mar , Spain

Montserrat Demestre
Intitut de Ciencies del Mar , Spain

Silvia de Juan
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) , New Zealand

Chris L.J. Frid
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool , United Kingdom


Trawling is known to disturb benthic communities and habitats, which may in turn indirectly affect populations of commercial species that live in close association with the seabed. The degree of impact on both benthic communities and demersal species depends on the fishing effort level. This may vary over the year because of the fleet dynamics, which are in turn normally driven by the main target species’ life cycle. In this study we describe changes in benthic functional components of a northwestern Mediterranean fishing ground that represents a recruitment area for an important target species (red mullet, Mullus barbatus). This fishing ground experiences a varying intensity of fishing effort over the year and benthic functional components under different levels of trawling were compared with an unfished, control area. Traits related to sexual maturity and life span for infauna and body size and life span for epifauna were found to vary with fishing activity. Potential effects of these changes on ecological functioning and the impact on red mullet population are discussed. The development of fisheries management plans under an ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM) requires the links between target species and benthic communities’ disturbance due to fishing practices to be explicitly considered.


benthos; BTA; functioning; mullet fisheries; trawling; NW Mediterranean

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