Using population viability analysis to examine the potential long-term impact of fisheries bycatch on protected species
Cronin, Michelle A.
Fisheries bycatch is recognised as the dominant anthropogenic threat facing many protected species globally. Estimates of total bycatch are often associated with wide confidence intervals as a result of limited coverage by on-board observers. This makes it difficult for managers to assess risk and design effective management plans. Here, we present a case study of grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) bycatch in static net fisheries across Irish waters, where potentially unsustainable bycatch levels have been reported with typically wide confidence intervals. We used Population Viability Analysis (PVA) to explore potential bycatch scenarios at a national level in order to inform future monitoring and management efforts; including (i) a baseline scenario where the probability of seals becoming bycaught was independent of age and sex; (ii) probability was biased towards juvenile, male, or female seals; (iii) there was net immigration of seals from outside of the national population; and (iv) colony-specific bycatch rates were applied to assess the relative vulnerability of the major grey seal breeding colonies to bycatch mortality. Results demonstrated that (i) higher levels of bycatch reduced population growth, with bycatch of 800 seals per year reducing the national population by 99% over 100 years; (ii) population viability was most sensitive to bycatch mortality of female seals, and more robust to juvenile or male mortality; (iii) recruitment of 500 seals per year prevented population decline despite a worst-case bycatch scenario of 800 seals bycaught per year; (iv) colonies in the south and southwest were the first to show signs of decline under increasing bycatch pressure. PVA provides a clear justification for improved monitoring of seal bycatch to obtain more precise bycatch estimates, and highlights the need for future studies to identify appropriate grey seal management units.
Bycatch , Demographic analysis , Fisheries management , Grey seal , Population viability analysis , Protected species
Luck, C., Jessopp, M., Cronin, M. and Rogan, E. (2022) 'Using population viability analysis to examine the potential long-term impact of fisheries bycatch on protected species', Journal for Nature Conservation, 67, 126157 (10pp). doi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2022.126157