Limited trophodynamics effects of trawling on three Mediterranean fishes

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Trawling has a significant effect on the structure of marine communities, yet the ubiquity of trawling impacts makes testing such effects difficult. This study examines trawling impacts on trophodynamics of three fishes among the Gulfs of Castellammare and Termini Imerese (northern Sicily), the first of which has been subject to a trawling ban since 1990 that initially resulted in an eightfold increase in total fish biomass. The Gulf of Termini Imerese remains heavily fished and was treated as a control site. Nitrogen and carbon stable isotope data were used to assess fishing induced changes in trophic levels or source of production supporting three demersal fish species; Mullus barbatus,Merluccius merluccius and Lophius budegassa following a control-impact approach. The exclusion of trawling resulted in only small alteration of δ15N in two of the three-three species. There were no systematic changes in the δ13C of any species sampled. Thus, a large influence of trawling on the trophodynamics of the studied species at sampled size was discounted. Although stable isotopes do not have spatial or temporal resolution to identify detailed shifts in diet composition, their integrative nature highlights that the trophic role these species play is robust to fishing impacts at scales over which the fishery operates. This is despite a significant increase in the abundance of these species and of total fish biomass within the protected area.

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