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Analysis of trawling catch composition during different fishing intensity periods in two Mediterranean demersal fishing grounds

The study was carried out in two different fishing areas of the continental shelf: one in the Adriatic Sea (central Mediterranean) and the other in the Catalan Sea (western Mediterranean). Information on the characteristics of the fishing fleets and on the fishing effort was collected in both areas. Sampling on board otter trawlers was performed from November 2002 to December 2003 in the Catalan Sea and from February 2003 to January 2004 in the Adriatic Sea. The Ecological Use Efficiency (EUE) index was applied to evaluate the impact of trawling on the demersal fish assemblages.

The Adriatic fishing ground was affected by high fishing intensity from January to June, while the Catalan area was affected from September to February. In the Adriatic Sea, fishing activity was closed for 45 days while in the Catalan Sea for 62 days both in summer. Totals of 92 and 88 species were collected in the Adriatic and Catalan fishing grounds respectively.

The species composition of the retained and discarded fractions showed close agreement between the two areas. Merluccius merluccius and Mullus barbatus showed very low discard rates in both areas, as well as Citharus linguatula in the Catalan Sea and Arnoglossus laterna in the Adriatic Sea. However, Liocarcinus depurator was characterized by large discard fractions. In both fishing grounds Squilla mantis showed high catch rates with low discards, except in March in the Catalan Sea.

The main conclusion drawn from this study is that the maximum commercial yields are obtained after the fishing closure in both areas, then the commercial yields progressively decrease in the following months. The EUE index shows that the proportion of the discarded fraction was slightly higher in the periods of low fishing intensity, with similar values in both areas.

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