Not easy to catch: multiple covariates influence catch rates of brown shrimp (Crangon crangon L.), potentially affecting inferences drawn from catch and landings data
Brown shrimps (Crangon crangon) occur in high densities in the southern North Sea and support a large, but so far unmanaged fishery with >500 vessels. Cohort-based stock assessment is not possible, and catch per unit effort from scientific surveys and commercial landings are the only variables collected. Landings per unit effort are currently used to approximate the state of stock and to trigger catch restrictions, but, although decisive in interpreting unit catches or landings, factors affecting catch rates are rarely understood. Using data from two long-term (1997–2010) scientific surveys conducted in autumn and winter, respectively, in the southern North Sea and from a vertically resolving stow net deployed at two stations in the German Wadden Sea (2005–2007), we investigate the effects of season, reproductive state, size, tidal state, daylight, and water depth on catch rates of brown shrimp. Log-linear random intercept models revealed an influence of all factors examined on the catch rate. Depth had a clear effect on the composition of size and reproductive state, supporting the hypothesis that brown shrimp utilize selective tidal stream transport to migrate to depths preferred during certain periods within their life cycle. The vertical distribution of brown shrimp across the water column revealed that on average two thirds to three quarters of the brown shrimps were located above reach of the standard shrimp catching gear. Our findings indicate that multiple factors and interactions affect catch rates of brown shrimp and, thus, need to be accounted for when interpreting unit catches or landings for management purposes. We suggest that brown shrimps are not primarily demersal, and that stock size estimates solely relying on beam trawl data may underestimate the true density of shrimps per area.
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