Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: The Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas on Fish and Benthic Fauna: The Georges Bank Closed Area I Example

R. Reid, F. Almeida, P. Valentine, L. Arlen, J. Cross, V. Guida, J. Link, D. McMillan, S. Muraski, D. Packer, J. Vitaliano, and A. Paulson

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch98

In late 1994, a substantial portion of western Georges Bank was closed to commercial fishing (Closed Area I) to assist with stock rebuilding. After about five years of closure, CAI, exhibited a notable increase in biomass and density of sea scallops, Placopecten magellanicus, and was reopened to the scallop fishery. Before the industry was allowed entry into this area, we conducted a survey to monitor the recovery of benthic habitat and fauna inside CAI. Sampling sites were selected in a paired station design for an inside/outside comparison; other stations were chosen to monitor the remainder of the inside. At each station, we conducted video transects, collected still photos, CTD casts, and sediment samples for physical and chemical analysis. A Smith-McIntyre bottom sampler was then used to sample the benthic community, followed by an otter trawl. Trawl catches were sorted to species and all fish and invertebrates were weighed, enumerated, and measured. Stomach contents, maturity observations, and age structures were collected for selected species at each station. Our results suggest notable differences between paired stations for a suite of biotic and abiotic metrics ranging from grain size to fish biomass. The reason for major differences is likely a result of the high relief, cobble habitat type in the region. The differences we observed for CAI may have notable implications for the population dynamics of commercially valuable species.