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Reducing the impact of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) dredging on the ecosystem in shallow water soft bottom areas

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Abstract

  • Dredging blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and thus removing structural elements, inducing resuspension of sediment as well as reducing filtration capacity, will inevitably affect the ecosystem. The study demonstrates that the impacts of fishing can be reduced through gear developments.
  • A new light dredge was tested on commercial vessels using two different experimental setups. First, a twin haul experiment tested the standard gear (i.e., a Dutch dredge) against the light dredge by fishing the two gears side by side onboard the same vessel. Second, a single dredge experiment tested the absolute performance of the two gears by fishing in areas with a known blue mussel density.
  • Results from the twin haul experiment demonstrate that the weight of sediment retained in the gear per square metre fished is 49% less in the light dredge compared with the Dutch dredge which will reduce resuspension of sediment at the surface. Also, the drag resistance of the light dredge was significantly less (177.1 vs. 202.7 kg m-1). In the twin haul experiment no significant difference was found in the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of the two gears. The single dredge experiment, on the other hand, demonstrated a significant increase in CPUE exceeding 200% when using the light dredge.
  • Seafloor tracks made by the two dredges could not be distinguished by use of side-scan sonar and the tracks were still detectable 2 months after fishing.
  • It was concluded that replacement of the Dutch dredge with the light dredge would reduce the impact of the fishery on the ecosystem by (i) reducing resuspension of sediment, (ii) reducing fuel consumption, and (iii) potentially reducing energy transfer to the sediment through a reduced gear drag resistance. A potential increase in catch efficiency may reduce the area affected.
  • Fishing with the light dredge is discussed in relation to management of Natura 2000 sites.

Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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