Mesoscale productivity fronts and local fishing opportunities in the European Seas

This study evaluates the relationship between both commercial and scientific spatial fisheries data and a new satellite-based estimate of potential fish production (Ocean Productivity available to Fish, OPFish) in the European Seas. To construct OPFish, we used productivity frontal features derived from chlorophyll-a horizontal gradients, which characterize 10%–20% of the global phytoplankton production that effectively fuels higher trophic levels. OPFish is relatively consistent with the spatial distribution of both pelagic and demersal fish landings and catches per unit of effort (LPUEs and CPUEs, respectively). An index of harvest relative to ocean productivity (HP index) is calculated by dividing these LPUEs or CPUEs with OPFish. The HP index reflects the intensity of fishing by gear type with regard to local fish production. Low HP levels indicate lower LPUEs or CPUEs than expected from oceanic production, suggesting over-exploitation, while high HP levels imply more sustainable fishing. HP allows comparing the production-dependent suitability of local fishing intensities. Our results from bottom trawl data highlight that over-exploitation of demersal species from the shelves is twice as high in the Mediterranean Sea than in the North-East Atlantic. The estimate of HP index by dominant pelagic and demersal gears suggests that midwater and bottom otter trawls are associated with the lowest and highest overfishing, respectively. The contrasts of fishing intensity at local scales captured by the HP index suggest that accounting for the local potential fish production can promote fisheries sustainability in the context of ecosystem-based fisheries management as required by international marine policies.


Druon J-N, ... Serpetti N ... (24 authors)

Fish and Fisheries
07, 4, 2021
Pages: 1-21
DOI: 10.1111/faf.12585