Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Distribution of Fish on Northeast US Shelf Influenced by Both Fishing, Climate

Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus). (Credit: NEFSC/NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists studying the distribution of four commercial and recreational fish stocks in Northeast U.S. waters have found that climate change can have major impacts on the distribution of fish, but the effects of fishing can be just as important and occur on a more immediate time scale.

The four species studied -- black sea bass, scup, summer flounder, and southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Bight winter flounder -- have varied in abundance and have experienced heavy fishing pressure at times over the past 40 years.  Scientists examined the distribution of the four species using Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) research trawl survey data collected between 1972 and 2008.  Generalized additive models were used to determine if the distributions of the four species had changed over time, and if these changes reflect changes in temperature or fishing pressure.

The researchers found that black sea bass, scup, and summer flounder exhibited significant poleward shifts in distribution in at least one season.  The shifts in black sea bass and scup were related to temperature, while the shift in summer flounder was related to a decrease in fishing pressure and an expansion of the population age structure.  The southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Bight stock of winter flounder showed no change in distribution.

Read more at Distribution of Fish on Northeast US Shelf Influenced by Both Fishing, Climate

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