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Impact and performance of Mediterranean fishing gear by side-scan sonar technology

Lucchetti, Alessandro, Sala, Antonello
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2012 v.69 no.11 pp. 1806-1816
Solea solea, ecosystems, environmental factors, environmental impact, furrows, research management, sediments, trawl nets
An innovative approach with side-scan sonar was implemented to observe directly during towing operations the behaviour and the performance of hydraulic dredge, Rapido trawl, and two types of Mediterranean bottom trawls. The innovative aspect of the current paper is that a side-scan sonar was used alongside fishing operations when towing was in progress. Based on available literature, the type and level of the physical impact assessed were used to infer biological and ecological consequences caused by the fishing gear. The sonar used in real time can be applied to a wide range of research and management issues, such as the fishing gear impact on benthic ecosystems and the in situ fishing gear performance. We demonstrated that gear type and rigging, together with environmental conditions, are the main factors affecting the disturbance caused by fishing. Hydraulic dredges scrape the surface of the substratum and dig into it by resuspending large amounts of sediment. Rapido trawls used in muddy areas for common sole (Solea solea) dig deeper into the sediment, making furrows up to 10–13 cm deep. The most evident physical effects of trawling were the furrows produced by the otterboards, while other parts of the trawl created only faint marks.