Differential effects of a local industrial sand lance fishery on seabird breeding performance

M. Frederiksen, Henrik Jensen, F. Daunt, R.A. Mavor, S. Wanless

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Fisheries management across the world is moving toward an ecosystem-based approach, implying that fishery effects on nontarget species should be taken into account. However, such effects are often not well understood, partly because they can be difficult to distinguish from impacts of environmental fluctuations. We evaluated the effects of an industrial sand lance (Ammodytes marinus) fishery off the North Sea coast of the United Kingdom, which has been opened and closed in a quasi-experimental fashion, on sand-lance-dependent breeding seabirds. Controlling for environmental variation ( sea surface temperature, abundance of larval sand lance, and size of adult sand lance), we found that, when the fishery was operating, breeding productivity in the intensively studied seabird colony on the Isle of May was significantly depressed for one surface-feeding seabird species, the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), but not for four diving species. Analyzing Kittiwake data from 12 colonies inside and outside the closure zone in a replicated before-after control impact design, we again found that breeding productivity was significantly depressed in the closure zone when the fishery was active, whereas no effect was found in the control zone. Furthermore, Kittiwake breeding productivity was negatively correlated with fishery effort during the fishery period in the closure zone, but not in the control zone. The contrasting findings in the two zones could be related to environmental differences or to the fact that only one study colony in the control zone was exposed to high fishery effort within the typical foraging range of Kittiwakes during the breeding season. The strong impact on Kittiwakes, but not on diving species, could result from ( 1) inherently high sensitivity to reduced prey availability, ( 2) changes in the vertical distribution of sand lance at lower densities, ( 3) sand lance showing avoidance behavior to fishery vessels, or a combination of some or all of these factors. These findings indicate that local fishery closures can benefit sensitive predators and should be considered as a tool for future ecosystem-based fisheries management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)701-710
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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