Ruiz, Diego J, Banks, Stuart and Wolff, Matthias ORCID: (2016) Elucidating fishing effects in a large-predator dominated system: The case of Darwin and Wolf Islands (Galápagos). Journal of Sea Research, 107 (Part 2). pp. 1-11. DOI

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Fifty years of artisanal fishing history in Galápagos characterized by boom and bust of resources has changed the natural marine community structure close to fishing ports in the Galápagos Marine Reserve. Nonetheless, the remote Darwin and Wolf Islands are still in a “near natural state” harboring high species richness unique for the archipelago and high biomass. Marine life that aggregates to the pinnacles linked to the wider oceanic seascape makes them interesting and unique systems in terms of community structure and study of on-shore/offshore trophic interactions. Although > 200 km from local fishing ports the two islands also support an artisanal fishery targeting large demersal predators of high trophic levels. They are areas prioritized for conservation actions by Galápagos National Park, and local non-governmental organizations given their natural heritage importance, value to local fishers and revenue from dive tourism attracted by the promise of large marine predator aggregations such as sharks. Given that catch data upon which to base conservation recommendations is sparse it is difficult to accurately estimate present day fishing trends in Darwin and Wolf. We used a trophic steady-state model that connects benthic and pelagic communities to assess the potential effects of a change in fishing intensity in the two islands system. A predator–prey matrix was built using the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) software with total biomass estimated at 937 t km− 2. Large fish aggregations accounted for 19%, primary producers for 9.0% and non-fish (seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles) for less than 0.1% of the total living biomass. The total system size in terms of overall flows was 16,652 t km− 2 year− 1, four times larger than a generic seamount model but smaller than that modeled for a Galápagos upwelling system based upon the western Bolivar Channel region. Consumption and respiration dominated the flows in the system (53.4 and 31.8% respectively). The Darwin and Wolf system shows a mature state, dominated by respiration, and top–down control via sharks and benthic predatory fish as the most important system compartments in terms of biomass. Model simulations suggest that heavy fishing pressure on top predators would greatly change the system's trophic structure. The nature of impacts depended on the types of gears simulated. Reduced natural predator densities through fishing exert strong direct and indirect influences on the system towards sea urchin-dominated benthos.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Resource Management
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 13851101
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2019 10:33
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 13:29

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