Industrial Fishing Near West African Marine Protected Areas

Published on
04. March 2021

Industrial Fishing Near West African Marine Protected Areas and Its Potential Effects on Mobile Marine Predators

Guido Leurs, Karin J. van der Reijden, Sidi Yahya Cheikhna Lemrabott, Iça Barry, Diosnes Manuel Nonque, Han Olff, Samuel Ledo Pontes, Aissa Regalla, Laura L. Govers


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are increasingly implemented to facilitate the conservation of marine biodiversity and key habitats. However, these areas are often less effective to conserve mobile marine species like elasmobranchs (i.e., sharks and rays). Industrial fishing near MPA borders possibly impacts vulnerable species utilizing these protected areas. Hence, we aimed to study spatiotemporal patterns of industrial fisheries near MPAs, in relation to the bycatch of elasmobranchs. Specifically, we analyzed the spatiotemporal fishing effort within the West African region, mapped fishing effort in the direct vicinity of the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin (PNBA, Mauritania) and the Bijagós Archipelago (BA, Guinea Bissau), and compared the seasonal overlap between elasmobranch bycatch and fishing effort near these MPAs. We combined Automatic Identification System (AIS) data and local fisheries observer data, and determined fishing effort for each gear type and compared this with bycatch of elasmobranchs. We found that industrial fishing effort was dominated by trawling, drifting longlines, and fixed gear types. Although no industrial fishing was observed within both MPAs, 72 and 78% of the buffer zones surrounding the MPAs were fished for the Banc d’Arguin and Bijagós, respectively. Within the Banc d’Arguin buffer zone, trawling and drifting longlines dominated, with longlines mainly being deployed in fall. In the Bijagós buffer zone, trawling and fixed gears were most prevalent. Fisheries observer data for Mauritania showed that elasmobranch catches increased during the most recent sampling years (2016–2018). Elasmobranch catches within the waters of Guinea Bissau peaked in 2016 and decreased in the following two years. Seasonal patterns in elasmobranch bycatch within the waters of both countries are likely caused by increased catches of migratory species. Catches of rays peaked in May and June for Mauritania, and in October for Guinea Bissau. Shark catches were highest in February and July in Mauritanian waters, and in May and October in the waters of Guinea Bissau. Our study indicates that industrial fisheries near the border of ecologically important MPAs may have potentially major implications for ecosystem functioning by the removal of (migratory) predatory species.

Front. Mar. Sci., DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.602917


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