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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • long-term yields;
  • Mediterranean fisheries;
  • qualitative and quantitative fish changes;
  • sea warming;
  • tuna trap

Abstract

Since the 17th century, the Tonnarella of Camogli, a small tuna trap, has been used to catch pelagic fish along the western coast of the Portofino Promontory (Ligurian Sea, Northwestern Mediterranean). The availability of long-term datasets on fish yields (1950–1974 and 1996–2011), with information related to the seawater temperatures and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), has allowed us to study the qualitative and quantitative changes in fish yields in the last decade and the possible relationships with the seasonal anomalies of temperature that have occurred in the Ligurian Sea. In 1950–1974, yields remained relatively constant over time (average of 35.6 ± 8.7 t·year−1). From 1996 through 2011, yields were high (42.9 ± 15.9 t·year−1) but inconsistent with strong annual variability in catches. The primary catches are Seriola dumerili, Auxis rochei, Trachurus spp. and Sarda sarda. Changes in species composition have occurred as well: S. dumerili, Sardinella sp. and Belone belone have appeared recently. Moreover, a significant decrease in the boreal scombroid (Scomber scombrus) and an increase of warm-temperate carangids and other typically Southern Mediterranean species such as Coryphaena hippurus and Sphyraena viridensis, appear to be linked to the warming of the surface water layer, particularly evident in the Ligurian Sea, for the last 10 years. The analysis of this kind of trend may be a powerful tool for assessing structural changes of the pelagic fish community in the Ligurian Sea (Northwestern Mediterranean).