Correlation between seabirds and fisheries varies by species at fine-scale pattern

De la Cruz A, Rodríguez-García C, Cabrera-Castro R, Arroyo GM (2023) Correlation between seabirds and fisheries varies by species at fine-scale pattern. ICES Journal of Marine Science 80:2427–2440.

Understanding how fisheries influence seabird distribution is critical in the development of sustainable fisheries management. Species distribution models were applied to analyse the influence of the fishing footprint, discards, and oceanographic factors on seabird attendance patterns to trawlers in the Gulf of Cádiz. More than 30 species of seabirds were attracted to trawlers, although only seven were registered with relatively high frequency and abundance. For these species, fishery footprint was a good predictor for the distribution of four out of seven (yellow-legged gull, lesser black-backed gull, northern gannet, and Cory's shearwater). Yellow-legged and lesser black-backed gull flocked in large numbers to trawlers, mostly in shallow areas where they were also attracted by purse seines. Northern gannets and Cory's shearwaters appeared with relatively high frequency and their distributions correlated with trawler effort and abundance of potential prey discards. Balearic shearwaters were attracted in low numbers and concentrated in shallow areas, where potential prey discards were also more abundant. For these three species, discards as surrogate of natural prey distribution were good predictors of trawler attendance. Our research revealed that, at a local scale, the degree of interaction of seabirds on fishing discards varies by species. Therefore, fine-scale studies are essential in identifying interactions between seabirds and fisheries, and thus assessing conservation issues such as bycatch or the consequences of discard bans.