Modeling and Mapping Trophic Overlap between Marine Mammals and Commercial Fisheries in the North Atlantic

K. Kaschner, R. Watson, V. Christensen, A. W. Trites, D. Pauly, (2001). “Modeling and Mapping Trophic Overlap between Marine Mammals and Commercial Fisheries in the North Atlantic.,” Fisheries Centre Research Reports No. 9 (Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

The impact that fishing operations may have on marine mammals and other components of marine ecosystems is a major concern today. Fisheries, in addition to causing by-catch mortalities, affect marine mammals through direct and indirect competition for the same food sources. Our goal was to assess the potential trophic impact of fisheries on mammal populations in the North Atlantic by quantifying the overlap in resource exploitation in space and time using high-resolution modeling and mapping. We developed a relatively simple model to estimate feeding requirements (specified by food type) and population biomass of all North Atlantic marine mammal species. Main model input parameters were population abundance, sex-specific mean body mass, standardized diet compositions, and weight-specific feeding rates. A spatial model was constructed using a geographic information system to link annual food consumption estimates to the corresponding species-specific, rasterized distributional ranges. Spatially explicit food intake (expressed as proportions of total food intake per ½ degree latitude/longitude square) was further refined by incorporating information about habitat preferences and feeding patterns. Superimposing the geographically matching fisheries catches (generated by a similar rule-based model) allowed the calculation of overlap between fisheries catches and marine mammal consumption. The model indicates that, in the North Atlantic, total food consumption of marine mammals in the 1990s was three times higher than total fisheries catches. However, spatially disaggregating consumption and specifying intake by food type showed actual resource overlap to be quite low. Areas of high overlap in the North Atlantic are concentrated along the East coast of North America (35° ? 53° N) and in European shelf waters. This visualization of geographical ?hotspots? of marine mammal-fisheries interactions may help to identify areas of conflict, realized or potential. Hence the meta-analysis approach taken here may serve as a useful management tool in the context of defining marine mammal critical habitat and efficient MPAs design.