Trawl effort distribution off the U.S. Pacific coast: Regulatory shifts and seafloor habitat conservation

Trawl effort distribution off the U.S. Pacific coast: Regulatory shifts and seafloor habitat conservation

M.A. Bellman, and S.A. Heppell

Trawl effort distribution off the U.S. Pacific coast: Regulatory shifts and seafloor habitat conservationThis is part of Biology, Assessment, and Management of North Pacific Rockfishes
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Description

The U.S. West Coast groundfish trawl fishery currently operates under a variety of management measures designed to rebuild depleted rockfish (Sebastes sp.) populations. Regulatory measures can shift or reduce trawling over seafloor habitats and thus act as a tool to protect the long-term sustainability of groundfish by conserving Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) from fishing impacts. Our analysis reviews the spatial and temporal extent of trawl fishing effort over the Pacific coast seafloor in the framework of complex fishery management from 1999 to 2004. Coast-wide trawl effort declined over these years, yet the remaining fishing effort changed in spatial extent and intensity and shifted between habitat types. The proportion of annual trawl effort on the continental shelf has increased. In recent years, trawl fishing effort has intensified along boundaries of depth-based spatial closures. This study emphasizes the benefits of increasing the spatial resolution of fishery data to better understand how fishing impacts on habitat are minimized, identifying locations of potential habitat recovery, and the implications of fishery management measures on EFH conservation.

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