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Fisheries Research
Volume 248, 2022, 106222

Local fishers experience can contribute to a better knowledge of marine resources in the Western Mediterranean Sea

Azzurra Bastaria, Yesmina Mascarellb, Miquel Ortegab,c, Marta Colld

MedReACT, via Urbana, 143, 00184 Rome, Italy.

Abstract

In this study we explore fishers’ perceptions in the Ebro Delta area, Western Mediterranean, throughout structured questionnaires. Specifically, we compare the coherence of information provided by fishers with those resulting by scientific studies in terms of the status of demersal marine resources in the Ebro Delta area; we describe temporal trends of demersal key species in the area with fishers’ perceptions; and we explore the use of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) as an alternative data sources to reduce the gap of knowledge on the spatial distribution and temporal trends of sensitive and vulnerable benthic marine species. Our results document important changes in the bottom trawling activity in the study area and in the abundance of commercial species with time according to fishers’ perceptions. Our results mostly match quantitative information from national statistics and stock assessment analyses. In addition, we document important changes in the presence of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) in the study area due to the by-catch of habitat forming species with time. According to fishers’ perceptions, habitat forming species occur in the area, but were more frequently captured incidentally in the 1980 s and 1990 s. Overall, our study evidences that fisher’s perception represents an important source of complementary information to describe bottom trawling fisheries characteristics and the long-term changes of demersal target species in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, it highlights that LEK can provide fundamental and additional information on ecosystem changes and it can be a useful tool to increase the knowledge on spatial distribution and on temporal trends of vulnerable benthic species.

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