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Fishing and the ground-fish assemblage structure in the north-western North Sea: an analysis of long-term and spatial trends
Greenstreet, S.P.R.; Hall, S.J. (1996). Fishing and the ground-fish assemblage structure in the north-western North Sea: an analysis of long-term and spatial trends. J. Anim. Ecol. 65: 577-598
In: Journal of Animal Ecology. Blackwell Science/British Ecological Society: Oxford. ISSN 0021-8790, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    20th century; Long-term changes; Otter trawlers; Trawlers; Eutrigla gurnardus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Merlangius merlangus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Trisopterus esmarkii (Nilsson, 1855) [WoRMS]; ANE, North Sea [Marine Regions]; British Isles, Scotland, Shetland [Marine Regions]; Marine
Author keywords
    community structure, whole fish assemblage, non-exploited fish assemblage, species diversity, dominance, fishing impact

Authors  Top 
  • Greenstreet, S.P.R.
  • Hall, S.J.

Abstract
    1. This paper examines long-term changes in the structure and composition of the groundfish species assemblage in three regions of the north-western North Sea. Scottish fisheries research vessel data collected during the months July-September over the period 1929-53 are compared with more recent August groundfish survey data covering the period 1980-93. Trends in the whole groundfish assemblage, and in a subset of the assemblage that is not targeted by commercial fisheries, are described.2. Long-term differences in species assemblage were subtle, and were most apparent in the dominance structure. Species diversity in the whole groundfish assemblage was marginally greater in the period 1929-53, but no difference was apparent within the non-target species assemblage. For the whole groundfish assemblage, diversity was greatest in the inshore region and least in the offshore area, but there was no obvious spatial gradient for the non-target species assemblage.3. Multivariate analyses indicated long-term changes and between area differences in the species composition for both the whole groundfish assemblage and the non-target species subset. More detailed examination of the data revealed that the long-term changes resulted from relatively small and subtle differences in the relative abundance of rarer species, such as grey gurnard Eutrigla gurnardus (L.) and spur-dog Squalus acanthius L.. In contrast, changes in the relative abundance of the more common species, such as Norway pout Trisopterus esmarkii (Nilsson) and whiting Merlangius merlangus (L.), explained much of the between-area variation.4. Examination of species aggregated length-frequency distributions suggested that by the 1980s there had been a shift towards assemblages in which smaller fish were more highly represented. This was only apparent, however, in the whole groundfish species assemblage; the length-frequency distributions of non-targeted species were almost identical in the two time periods.5. Overall, the results suggest that, although differences in the structure of the whole fish assemblage can be detected, the non target groundfish assemblage appears to have remained relatively unchanged, despite a century of intensive fishing activity.

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