Fishery-induced Inter-annual Changes in the Mean Trophic Level, the Northern Sea of Oman off the Iranian Coast, 2002–2011
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Ecosystem-based management is one of the most important approaches that may lead to reducing the impacts of fishing on ecosystems. In this context, we have assessed the impact of Iranian coastal fishing (using landing data of 49 exploited species) on the ecosystem of the North Sea of Oman (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), during the last decade (2002–2011), with emphasis on testing the occurrence of the “fishing downˮ phenomenon. The Mean Trophic Level (MTL) and Fishing-in-Balance (FiB) index are two indicators that we used for analysis. The data indicated that the increased total landings in this region might be related to the exploitation of marine fishery resources especially with regard to large pelagic fish. Over the past decade, moderate decreasing trends in MTL and an increasing trend in the FiB-index were observed. In this regard, an upward trend in the spatial expansion factor and also a downward trend in the piscivory index and in Primary Production Required (PPR) in the time period could all indicate a spatial expansion toward deep waters, the catching of the large pelagic piscivorous species, such as tuna, and a sign of fishing pressures on the ecosystem. The results suggest a range of fishery exploitation patterns throughout the food web but it seems that these patterns are not a consequence of ʻfishing downʼ. We suggest that the monitoring research be continued in this region and these indicators should be used to make fisheries management decisions and to prevent the continuance of this trend in future.
Keywordsmean trophic level fishing-in-balance fisheries management fishing down marine food web Oman Sea
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