The sandeel population analysis model (SPAM) is presented as a simulation tool for exploring the efficiency of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for sandeel stocks. SPAM simulates spatially resolved sandeel population distributions, based on a high-resolution map of all fishery-established sandbank habitats for settled sandeels, combined with a life-cycle model for survival, growth, and reproduction, and a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model for describing larval transport between the network of habitats. SPAM couples stock dynamics to ecosystem and anthropogenic forcing via well-defined drivers. The SPAM framework was tested using ICES statistical rectangle 37F2 as an MPA, and the impact on sandeel populations within the MPA and neighbouring habitats was investigated. Increased larval spillover compensated for lost catches inside the MPA. The temporal and spatial scales of stock response to MPAs demonstrated that ecosystem self-regulation must be included when modelling the efficiency of MPAs, and for lesser sandeel, that self-regulation partially counteracts the benefits of a fishing sanctuary. The use of realistic habitat connectivity is critical for both qualitative and quantitative MPA assessment. The results confirm that the stock levels are more sensitive to changes in life conditions of larval stages than later parts of the life cycle.
- population density effects
- spatially resolved population dynamics
- MPA networks
- North Sea
- life-cycle models