Evaluating simple measures of spatial-temporal overlap as a proxy for encounter risk between a protected species and commercial fishery
Spatial and temporal assessments of overlap are becoming increasingly popular as indicators of encounter risk. The overlap in distributions between protected species and commercial fishing effort is of interest for reducing bycatch. We explored overlap between the U.S. Atlantic sea scallop fishery and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) using 2 metrics, and we assessed the ability of one of those metrics to track estimated fishery interactions over time. Moderate overlap occurred between June - September; mild overlap in the spring (May) and fall (October - November); and relatively little overlap from December to April. Qualitatively, there appeared to be some correspondence between the overlap values averaged across months for each calendar year and published annual loggerhead interaction estimates with fisheries, but the predictive performance of the overlap metric was low. When data on the relative distributions of commercial fishing effort and protected species are available, simple measures of spatial and temporal overlap can provide a quick and cost-effective way to identify when and where bycatch is likely to occur. In this case study, however, overlap was limited in helping to understand the relative susceptibility of protected species to commercial fishing (i.e., magnitude of interactions). We therefore caution against using overlap as a meaningful predictor of absolute risk unless there is direct evidence to suggest a relationship.