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Disentangling the effects of fishing and the environment on fish abundance and distribution is essential for informing future fisheries management measures. Fishery-independent trawl survey data (8 years data between 1999 and 2016) were examined to test influences of fishing effort and environmental variables (temperature, oxygen salinity) on the spatial distribution of two species groups (5 economically important species and 3 non-commercial species) on the continental shelf of Ghana. Fishing effort influenced year-to-year variability in the abundance of 5 species negatively and 2 species positively, with 1 species unaffected. All species showed significant spatio-temporal associations with temperature, salinity and oxygen levels within the region. We observed some interannual consistency in fish spatial distributions given climatic variables’ correlation; however, some variability appeared to reflect tracking of year-to-year shifts in climatic variables, such as inshore–offshore shifts in goatfish, red pandora and red cornetfish associated with thermal and oxygen shifts. While the habitat models did not entirely explain the variability in these spatiotemporal patterns, overall, both commercially targeted and non-targeted demersal species appeared to be impacted by fishing and the species also track spatial and temporal changes in environmental conditions from year-to-year. Future fisheries management regulations in the region should incorporate spatially resolved measures of fishing effort alongside measures of environmental variables.

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Regional Studies in Marine Science




Graham Forrester is from the Department of Natural Resources Science.

Jeremy Collie is from the Graduate School of Oceanography.