Marine mammal consumption and fisheries removals in the Nordic and Barents Seas
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonICES Journal of Marine Science. 2022, 79 (5), 1583-1603. 10.1093/icesjms/fsac096
In this study, we assess prey consumption by the marine mammal community in the northeast Atlantic [including 21 taxa, across three regions: (I) the Icelandic shelf, Denmark Strait, and Iceland Sea (ICE); (II) the Greenland and Norwegian Seas (GN); and (III) the Barents Sea (BS)], and compare mammal requirements with removals by fisheries. To determine prey needs, estimates of energetic requirements were combined with diet and abundance information for parameterizing simple allometric scaling models, taking uncertainties into account through bootstrapping procedures. In total, marine mammals in the ICE, GN, and BS consumed 13.4 [Confidence Interval (CI): 5.6–25.0], 4.6 (CI: 1.9–8.6), and 7.1 (CI: 2.8–13.8) million tonnes of prey year–1. Fisheries removed 1.55, 1.45, and 1.16 million tonnes year–1 from these three areas, respectively. While fisheries generally operate at significantly higher trophic levels than marine mammals, we find that the potential for direct competition between marine mammals and fisheries is strongest in the GN and weakest in the BS. Furthermore, our results also demonstrate significant changes in mammal consumption compared to previous and more focused studies over the last decades. These changes likely reflect both ongoing population recoveries from historic whaling and the current rapid physical and biological changes of these high-latitude systems. We argue that changing distributions and abundances of mammals should be considered when establishing fisheries harvesting strategies, to ensure effective fisheries management and good conservation practices of top predators in such rapidly changing systems.