TitleComparison of trawled vs untrawled mud seafloor assemblages of fishes and macroinvertebrates at Coquille Bank, Oregon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHixon, MA, Tissot, BN
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

We report the first quantitative comparison of trawled vs untrawled mud seafloor communities off the west coast of North America. Using a manned submersible, we ran visual transects at Coquille Bank, 25 km off the central coast of Oregon, USA, including six half-hour (mean length 1184 m) transects over mud seafloors 183-361 m deep. The shallowest transects were untrawled, whereas deeper transects were heavily trawled, as evidenced by extensive trawl-door tracks. Differences between trawled and untrawled seafloor assemblages were striking. We observed 23% more fish over untrawled compared to trawled seafloors, and recorded 27 fish species on untrawled bottoms, but only 19 species on trawled seafloors. Regarding benthic invertebrates, density of individuals was 6 times greater on untrawled compared to trawled bottoms. Nonetheless, we observed 11 taxa on trawled seafloors and only 6 taxa on untrawled bottoms. Principal components analysis (PCA) defined the untrawled assemblage as characterized by sea pens, ratfish, sablefish, ronquil, slender sole, and poacher. PCA defined the trawled assemblage as characterized by seastars, hermit crabs, bigfin eelpout, Dover sole, hagfish, and shortspine thornyhead. In untrawled areas, there was no correlation between sea-pen density and total fish density, whereas in trawled areas, there was a marginally inverse correlation between the density of trawl-door tracks and total fish density. The dominant fishes and macro invertebrates on trawled seafloors are known mobile scavengers that may aggregate along trawl-door tracks. Sea pens that dominated untrawled bottoms are sessile, slow-g,rowing, long-lived species that are likely to recover slowly from physical disturbance. We conclude that the observed differences between trawled and untrawled communities were the result of groundfishing activities rather than local environmental differences. Given that habitat considerations for groundfish management in this region focus exclusively on rocky seafloors, it seems prudent to consider the adverse effects of bottom trawling on mud seafloor ecosystems of the continental shelf and slope. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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