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Driftnet fishing and biodiversity conservation: the case study of the large-scale Moroccan driftnet fleet operating in the Alboran Sea (SW Mediterranean)
Tudela, S.; Kai Kai, A.; Maynou, F.; El Andalossi, M.; Guglielmi, P. (2005). Driftnet fishing and biodiversity conservation: the case study of the large-scale Moroccan driftnet fleet operating in the Alboran Sea (SW Mediterranean). Biol. Conserv. 121(1): 65-78
In: Biological Conservation. Elsevier: Barking. ISSN 0006-3207, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Tudela, S.
  • Kai Kai, A.
  • Maynou, F.
  • El Andalossi, M.
  • Guglielmi, P.

    Illegal, large-scale driftnets are still used in several Mediterranean areas. According to international official sources, Morocco harbors the bulk of this fleet in the Mediterranean. To ascertain its biodiversity impact, 369 fishing operations (worth 4140 km of driftnets set) made by the driftnet fleet targeting swordfish (Xiphias gladius) based in Al Hoceima (Alboran Sea) were monitored between December 2002 and September 2003. Parallel surveys were made in the main Mediterranean ports and in that of Tangiers, in the Gibraltar Straits, to estimate the total fishing effort. Results showed an active driftnet fleet conservatively estimated at 177 units. Estimated average net length ranges from 6.5 to 7.1 km, depending on the port, though actual figures are suspected to be much higher (12-14 km). Most boats perform driftnet fishing all year round, resulting in very high annual effort levels. A total of 237 dolphins (short-beaked common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, and striped dolphin, Stenella coeruleoalba), 498 blue sharks (Prionace glauca), 542 shortfin makos (Isurus oxyrinchus) and 464 thresher sharks (Alopias vulpinus) were killed by the boats monitored during the sampling period, during the peak of the swordfish fishery, along with 2990 swordfish. Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) was also caught (46 individuals). Estimates for a 12-month period by the whole driftnet fleet yielded 3110-4184 dolphins (both species) and 20,262-25,610 pelagic sharks distributed in roughly equal proportions for P. glauca, I. oxyrinchus and A. vulpinus, in the Alboran Sea alone; further 11,589-15,127 dolphins and 62,393-92,601 sharks would be killed annually around the Straits of Gibraltar. Dolphins suffer from annual take rates exceeding 10% of their population sizes in the Alboran Sea; this unsustainable impact is particularly worrying for D. delphis, because its last remnant healthy population in the Mediterranean occurs in this area. Average catch rate for swordfish, the main target species, amounted to only 0.8 individuals/km net set. Pelagic sharks are actively targeted by a part of the fleet.

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