Spatial separation of catches in highly mixed fisheries
Dolder, Paul J.
Thorson, James T.
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Mixed fisheries are the dominant type of fishery worldwide. Overexploitation in mixed fisheries occurs when catches continue for available quota species while low quota species are discarded. As EU fisheries management moves to count all fish caught against quota (the “landing obligation”), the challenge is to catch available quota within new constraints, else lose productivity. A mechanism for decoupling exploitation of species caught together is spatial targeting, which remains challenging due to complex fishery and population dynamics. How far spatial targeting can go to practically separate species is often unknown and anecdotal. We develop a dimension-reduction framework based on joint dynamic species distribution modelling to understand how spatial community and fishery dynamics interact to determine species and size composition. In application to the highly mixed fisheries of the Celtic Sea, clear common spatial patterns emerge for three distinct assemblages. While distribution varies interannually, the same species are consistently found in higher densities together, with more subtle differences within assemblages, where spatial separation may not be practically possible. We highlight the importance of dimension reduction techniques to focus management discussion on axes of maximal separation and identify spatiotemporal modelling as a scientific necessity to address the challenges of managing mixed fisheries.
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