Depredation by harbor seal and spiny dogfish in a Georges Bank gillnet fishery


Anthony R. Rafferty, Monash University, School of Biological Sciences, Bldg 18, Wellington Road, Vic. 3800, Australia (e-mail:


Abstract  Depredation can have economic, social and ecological impacts by decreasing fishery landings and threatening marine predator populations through increased risk of entanglement. This investigation quantified the loss of landings attributed to harbour seal, Phoca vitulina L., and spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias L., depredation in the Georges Bank, Massachusetts, USA gillnet fishery. Approximately 1361 kg (2.38%) of fish was discarded from a total possible catch weight of nearly 57 300 kg because it was unsalable following depredation. Spiny dogfish accounted for 1134 kg (1.98%), and harbour seal accounted for 227 kg (0.40%) of discards. This represented an estimated US$2250 loss in profits from a total possible catch value of almost US$61 800, signifying a 3.64% market-value loss during the assessment period. These results suggest that discarding due to harbour seal and spiny dogfish depredation results in a relatively small market loss to fishers, although additional information and research is needed before this can be confirmed. This study is the first on this subject in the fishery and provides baseline information on depredation rates that could be useful if harbour seal and spiny dogfish populations continue to increase.