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Biomass consumption by breeding seabirds in the western Indian Ocean: indirect interactions with fisheries and implications for management

Abstract : Fisheries potentially affect seabirds both directly and indirectly. Well-documented direct effects have resulted in significant losses to seabird populations, but indirect effects are less well known. One way in which tropical seabirds may be indirectly affected is through overexploitation of large subsurface predators. Tropical seabirds must forage over wide areas to attain sufficient prey and have evolved various methods of increasing foraging efficiency. Onestrategy is their association with surface-feeding tunas. When feeding, these predators drive prey to the surface, making them available to seabirds feeding from above. Losses in predator biomass will reduce prey accessibility (but not necessarily prey abundance) for seabirds, contributing to declines in bird populations. To explore indirect fisheries effects, we compared estimates of the magnitude and spatial distributions of consumption by breeding seabirds with fisheries offtake in the western Indian Ocean (WIO). Data from the literature were compared with Indian Ocean Tuna Commission longline and purse seine landings of selected tuna and billfish species from between 2000 and 2009. Breeding seabird populations (adults and immature birds) were estimated at similar to 19 million individuals, assuming 50% breeding success. Based on the literature, these birds will consume between 150 000 and 500 000 metric tonnes (t) of prey; values that are of the same magnitude as mean annual longline (904+/-632 t) and purse seine (349 861+/-61 820 t) landings for the region. Spatial overlap between fisheries and seabirds is high, especially around the Seychelles, suggesting that the indirect impacts of fisheries on seabird populations may be great. Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) is by far the dominant seabird in the study area, accounting for over 80% of numbers and consumption estimates. Our results highlight the importance of seabirds within WIO marine trophic webs and emphasize the potential indirect effects of industrial tuna fisheries on their populations.
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Submitted on : Monday, April 25, 2016 - 1:23:41 PM
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D. K. Danckwerts, C. D. Mcquaid, Audrey Jaeger, G. K. Mcgregor, R Dwight, et al.. Biomass consumption by breeding seabirds in the western Indian Ocean: indirect interactions with fisheries and implications for management. ICES Journal of Marine Science, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2014, 71 (9), pp.2589-2598. ⟨10.1093/icesjms/fsu093⟩. ⟨hal-01306712⟩



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