Recent trends in the abundance of plaice Pleuronectes platessa and cod Gadus morhua in shallow coastal waters of the Northeastern Atlantic continental shelf – a review

Jörg Dutz, Josianne Gatt Støttrup, Claus Stenberg, Peter Munk

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Abstract

Shallow, near-shore water habitats on the continental shelf of the Northeast Atlantic have been productive fishing areas in the past. Here, we review the present knowledge about (i) recent trends in the abundance of plaice and cod in these habitats and (ii) hypotheses regarding the factors responsible for any trends. At present, only a few studies exist on the trends of abundance of plaice or cod, namely from the Bay of Biscay, the North Sea and the Skagerrak/Kattegat. They suggest a declining abundance in coastal, shallow areas and – at least for plaice – a latitudinal gradient with an erosion of the southern distribution boundary in the Bay of Biscay and deepening of stocks in the North Sea. In contrast, no trend in shallow water abundance of plaice similar to a decline in deep-water stocks during the 1970s and their slow recovery during the 2000s is apparent in the Skagerrak/Kattegat. Although shallow habitats fundamentally differ from deeper areas by the prevalence of juvenile stages, the declining trends coincide with decreasing abundance/landings and spatial stock relocations in the deeper areas. Whether this indicates a common trend pointing at connectivity between shallow and deep water remains open. Fundamental differences exist in the suggested causes of the trends in different geographical areas. High fishing pressure together with low local recruitment apparently prevents the recovery of overexploited plaice and cod stocks in the Skagerrak/Kattegat. In contrast, the responses of juveniles and adult fish to increasing seawater temperature are the main hypotheses for changes in distribution and abundance of both fish species in the North Sea/Bay of Biscay. However, temperature alone cannot explain the observed decline of fish in coastal areas, and the causes may be more complex, involving nutrient loading, primary productivity or food availability, although at present, knowledge of these factors is insufficient
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biology Research
Volume12
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)785-796
ISSN1745-1000
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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