Changes in catch efficiency and selectivity in the beam trawl fishery for sole when mechanical stimulation is replaced by electrical stimulation
Overzee, Harriët M.J. van; Rijnsdorp, Adriaan D.; Poos, Jan Jaap
Beam trawl fisheries for sole are characterised by large amounts of unwanted bycatch (i.e. discards) consisting of fish below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size, unwanted fish due to low commercial value or lack of quota, and benthic invertebrates. In order to reduce the quantity of discards, a substantial part of the Dutch beam trawl fleet was allowed to replace the conventional tickler chain beam trawl (BT) with the pulse trawl (PT) on an experimental basis. The PT used electrical stimulation to immobilise and capture fish. Here we study whether pulse trawling reduced the amount of discards by comparing catch rates of landings and discards of BT and PT in the period 2009–2018 for a wide range of species. The PT caught (kg.km-2) significantly more marketable sized sole (Solea solea, 48 %), turbot (Psetta maxima, 8 %), brill (Scophthalmus rhombus, 28 %) and whiting (Merlangius merlangus, 95 %), and significantly less marketable sized plaice (Pleuronectes platessa, −16 %), cod (Gadus morhua, −32 %) and gurnards (−12 %). No significant difference was found for dab (Limanda limanda), gadoids, or rays and sharks. Among discards, the PT caught more undersized sole (27 %) and whiting (42 %) but less undersized plaice (−21 %), dab (−19 %) and grey gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus, −31 %). The observed differences in species selectivity are discussed in relation to the response of fish to bottom trawl gear and the effects of pulse stimulation. For the benthic invertebrates Ophiuroidae, bivalves and crabs the PT caught fewer individuals (between −38 % and −57 %). No significant difference was observed in sea urchins and sea stars. Overall, this study shows that the transition from the BT to PT resulted in a 36 % decrease (95 % prediction interval: 31–42 %) in discards (kg.hour-1).