The impact of oyster dredging on the growth of blue cod, Parapercis colias , in Foveaux Strait, New Zealand



  • 1.Little is known about the potential impact of habitat modification by bottom fishing gear on the growth of demersal fishes. An analysis is presented for the growth of blue cod in Foveaux Strait, southern New Zealand, based on otoliths of fish captured from two sites in Foveaux Strait in 1999.
  • 2.Each site contained two distinct areas of contrasting benthic habitat complexity, one area of relatively ‘complex’ recovering biogenic reef and another area of relatively ‘simple’ sand and gravel, both previously modified by oyster dredging.
  • 3.Data were fitted to von Bertalanffy growth models for each sex of blue cod from the four areas sampled. No significant difference in growth models was observed for either male or female blue cod compared between the two types of habitat complexity at the eastern site. However, growth differed significantly for both sexes of blue cod from the two habitat types at the western site. Pairwise t-tests further showed that growth differences only appeared biologically significant for the youngest blue cod sampled (3 years). These fish were, on average, 20% larger in complex biogenic reefs than in simple areas dredged by the oyster fishery.
  • 4.These results suggest that on-going disturbance and simplification of seabed habitat by the oyster fishery may impede the growth of juvenile blue cod. Areas of recovering biogenic reef may, therefore, provide important habitat for the recruitment and early development of blue cod in Foveaux Strait. Remedial actions may be required to protect some areas of recovering biogenic reef from further damage, and to allow dredged areas sufficient time to recover if the blue cod fishery and related resources are to be managed effectively.

Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.