|Estimating trends of population decline in long-lived marine species in the Mediterranean Sea based on fishers' perceptions|
|Maynou, F.; Sbrana, M.; Sartor, P.; Maravelias, C.; Kadavas, S.; Damalas, D.; Cartes, J.E.; Chato Osio, G. (2011). Estimating trends of population decline in long-lived marine species in the Mediterranean Sea based on fishers' perceptions. PLoS One 6(7): 10 pp. dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0021818|
|In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more|
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We conducted interviews of a representative sample of 106 retired fishers in Italy, Spain and Greece, asking specific questions about the trends they perceived in dolphin and shark abundances between 1940 and 1999 (in three 20 year periods) compared to the present abundance. The large marine fauna studied were not target species of the commercial fleet segment interviewed (trawl fishery). The fishers were asked to rank the perceived abundance in each period into qualitative ordinal classes based on two indicators: frequency of sightings and frequency of catches (incidental or intentional) of each taxonomic group. The statistical analysis of the survey results showed that both incidental catches and the sighting frequency of dolphins have decreased significantly over the 60+ years of the study period (except for in Greece due to the recent population increase). This shows that fishers' perceptions are in agreement with the declining population trends detected by scientists. Shark catches were also perceived to have diminished since the early 1940s for all species. Other long-lived Mediterranean marine fauna (monk seals, whales) were at very low levels in the second half of the 20th century and no quantitative data could be obtained. Our study supports the results obtained in the Mediterranean and other seas that show the rapid disappearance (over a few decades) of marine fauna. We show that appropriately designed questionnaires help provide a picture of animal abundance in the past through the valuable perceptions of fishers. This information can be used to complement scientific sources or in some cases be taken as the only information source for establishing population trends in the abundance of sensitive species.