Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: Physical and Biological Effects of Shrimp Trawling on Soft Sediment Habitats in the Gulf of Maine

A. W. Simpson and L. Watling

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch99

Mobile gear fisheries are a pervasive source of disturbance in marine habitats that can directly alter both the physical and biological structure of the benthic environment. In the Gulf of Maine, muddy bottoms are intensively trawled for northern shrimp during a seasonal winter fishery. We collected sediment samples from trawled and untrawled areas every 80 to 120 days over an 18-month period. Detailed bulk density measurements from sediment x-radiographs reveal that shrimp trawling may alter the sedimentary ‘landscape’. Our findings suggest that in areas where biogenic disturbance is high due to the activities of large burrowing megafauna such as fish and crustaceans, discerning impacts of shrimp trawling on the structure of infaunal communities is difficult; however, trawling appears to reduce the overall density of large burrows.