Urchins, starfish and sponges are proliferating in the area of Roses (Gerona) where fishermen and scientists from the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) agreed to implement a closure 6 months ago in a fishing ground located at an average depth of 120 meters, where the number of hakes has also grown.
As explained by the project coordinator, Laura Recasens, of Renewable Marine Resources at the ICM, "although we must wait for the final results, according to the report of the first 6 months of sampling, the effect of the closure on the fishing ground is positive."
Hake fishing ban
In February 2014, the Roses Fishermen's Association proposed a closed zone in one of the platform fishing grounds, located at an average depth of 120 to 130 meters.
Since then, fishing with any type of gear has been discontinued to protect juvenile hake (Merluccius merluccius), while the administration offered the opportunity to initiate a pilot co-management plan, involving fishermen and ICM researchers. CSIC.
In the project, officially underway since March 1, 2015, scientists carry out sampling, monitoring and evaluating the effects of the closure on the hake population.
All participants agreed that the duration of this pilot plan would be one year, in order to have enough time to evaluate the effects of the closure on biomass, biodiversity and the size distribution of the hake population.
“We do a monthly sampling aboard a fishing boat from the port of Roses. Each sampling day consists of 4 one-hour trawling, two within the protected fishing ground and two in a nearby fishing area, maintaining the same bathymetric and morphological characteristics of the sediment, ”explained Recasens.
Once the catch arrives on board, the biologists take measurements of the quantity, weight and size of all the commercial species that accompany the hake.
The scientists then take the hake specimens to the ICM laboratories, where they are separated into the same commercial categories for sale at the auction and calculate the length, weight, sex ratio, maturity and condition of the hake from inside and outside the protected fishing ground. , as well as the number and weight of all species in the catch and sizes of commercial species.
The fraction of fish that is discarded (non-commercial species), mainly the benthic fauna, is also taken to the ICM laboratories to classify them by species, count them and weigh them.
According to the ICM-CSIC researcher Ulla Fernández de Arcaya, who is responsible for the sampling, it is precisely the fraction of the benthic community that is benefiting the most from the protection measure.
Urchins, starfish, sponges, sea lilies (crinoids) and other organisms that live associated with the sediment of the seabed appear in much higher numbers within the closed area.
Joan B. Company, also a researcher at the ICM, recalled: “the experience of our center in co-management projects dates back to 2009, when we began to discuss with the fishing sector and with the Catalan and Spanish governments, the measures of the Management Plan of the Gamba de Palamós ”.
In the case of hake, according to the Company, “the effect of the closure on the fishing ground is positive and the populations of hake in the protected areas have grown; It is true that we will have to wait for the final results of the whole year, but we are optimistic and we believe that the trend can be maintained ”.