Using habitat association models to predict Alewife and Blueback Herring marine distributions and overlap with Atlantic Herring and Atlantic Mackerel: can incidental catches be reduced?

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Abstract

Concern over the impacts of incidental catches of Alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus and Blueback Herring, A. aestivalis (collectively managed as ‘river herring’) in the commercial Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus) and Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber scombrus) fisheries has resulted in the recent implementation of river herring incidental catch limits. These incidental catches are highly variable in frequency and magnitude, and the environmental conditions associated with these catches are poorly understood. We used generalized additive models (GAMs) to describe habitat associations of Alewife, Blueback Herring, Atlantic Herring, and Atlantic Mackerel. Bottom temperature, bottom depth, bottom salinity, solar azimuth and elevation, and region of the Northeast U.S. continental shelf were all significant in the habitat models; GAMs explained 25.2, 16.9, 18.9, and 20.6% of the deviance observed for the presence/absence of Alewife, Blueback Herring, Atlantic Herring, and Atlantic Mackerel. A subset of the data was omitted from the model and the probability of presence was compared with observations; 66–77% of observations were correctly predicted. The individual probabilities of presence were used to quantify and evaluate the accuracy of modelled overlap of Alewife and Blueback Herring with Atlantic Herring (68–72% correct predictions) and Alewife and Blueback Herring with Atlantic Mackerel (57–69% correct predictions). Our findings indicate that environmental gradients influence the distributions and overlap of Alewife, Blueback Herring, Atlantic Herring, and Atlantic Mackerel, and with further testing and refinement these models could be developed into a tool to aid industry in reducing incidental catches of river herring.

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