Using marine reserves to manage impact of bottom trawl fisheries requires consideration of benthic food-web interactions

Pieter Daniël van Denderen, Adriaan D. Rijnsdorp, Tobias van Kooten

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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely used to protect exploited fish species as well as to conserve marine habitats and their biodiversity. They have become a popular management tool also for bottom trawl fisheries, a common fishing technique on continental shelves worldwide. The effects of bottom trawling go far beyond the impact on target species, as trawls also affect other components of the benthic ecosystem and the seabed itself. This means that for bottom trawl fisheries, MPAs can potentially be used not only to conserve target species but also to reduce impact of these side-effects of the fishery. However, predicting the protective effects of MPAs is complicated because the side-effects of trawling potentially alter the food-web interactions between target and non-target species. These changes in predatory and competitive interactions among fish and benthic invertebrates may have important ramifications for MPAs as tools to manage or mitigate the effects of bottom trawling. Yet, in current theory regarding the functioning of MPAs in relation to bottom trawl fisheries, such predatory and competitive interactions between species are generally not taken into account. In this paper, we discuss how food-web interactions that are potentially affected by bottom trawling may alter the effectiveness of MPAs to protect (i) biodiversity and marine habitats, (ii) fish populations, (iii) fisheries yield and (iv) trophic structure of the community. We make the case that in order to be applicable for bottom trawl fisheries, guidelines for the implementation of MPAs must consider their potential food-web effects, at the risk of failing management
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)2302-2310
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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