Minimizing fishing impacts on seafloor ecosystems is a growing focus of ocean management; however, few quantitative tools exist to guide seascape-scale habitat management. To meet these needs, we developed a model to assess benthic ecosystem impacts from fishing gear contact. The habitat impacts model is cast in discrete time and can accommodate overlapping fisheries as well as incorporate gear-specific contact dynamics. We implemented the model in the North Pacific using fishing data from 2003 to 2017, estimating that habitat in 3.1% of the 1.2 million km2 study area was disturbed at the end of the simulation period. A marked decline in habitat disturbance was evident since 2010, attributable to a single regulatory gear change that lifted trawl gear components off the seafloor. Running scenarios without these gear modifications showed these policies might have contributed to a 24% reduction in habitat disturbance since their implementation. Ultimately, model outputs provide direct estimates of the spatial and temporal trends of habitat effects from fishing — a key component of regulatory policies for many of the world’s fisheries.
|Title||A seascape-scale habitat model to support management of fishing impacts on benthic ecosystems|
|Authors||T. Scott Smeltz, Bradley Harris, John Olson, Suresh Sethi|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Coop Res Unit Leetown|