Grey seal predation mortality on three depleted stocks in the West of Scotland: what are the implications for stock assessments?

Vanessa Trijoulet, Steven J. Holmes, Robin M. Cook

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Abstract

The decrease in groundfish stocks in the North Atlantic since the mid-1900s coupled with increases in grey seal populations is responsible for an enduring controversy between fishers and conservationists regarding the role seals have played in stock declines. We used a Bayesian state-space model to investigate stock trends in the presence of grey seals and associated MSY reference points in the West of Scotland. This study provides new estimates of seal predation mortality on haddock and whiting and updates the estimates for cod, which together form the traditional main components of the mixed demersal fishery in this area. Grey seal predation mortality is greatest on cod resulting in estimates of total natural mortality higher than those used in the current ICES assessments. Seal predation mortality is low for haddock and whiting. Considering seal predation in stock assessments changes the scale of biomass and fishing mortality estimates for the three stocks. The estimates of F0.1 and FMSY are sensitive to seal predation for cod and whiting but not for haddock. In all cases MSY decreases with increased seal predation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Early online date21 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • groundfish stocks
  • grey seals
  • West of Scotland
  • fisheries

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