Spearfishing data reveals the littoral fish communities’ association to coastal configuration

Boada, JordiSagué, O.Gordoa, Ana. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 199 : 152-160 (2017)  DIGITAL CSIC

Increasing the knowledge about littoral fish communities is important for ecological sciences, fisheries and the sustainability of human communities. The scarcity of baseline data at large spatial scales in a fast-changing world makes it necessary to implement special programs to monitor natural ecosystems. In the present study, we evaluate littoral fish communities using data from spearfishing contests. The Catalan Federation of Underwater Activities (FECDAS) regularly organizes fishing contests across ca. 600 km of coast. Catch records made over the last sixteen years were used to study the fish communities along the coastline. We found two different communities that are closely related to the habitat configuration at a regional level. Interestingly, contests held on the northern coast were mainly grouped together and were characterized by species that inhabit complex rocky habitats, and contests held on the southern coast were grouped together and were mainly determined by soft bottoms species (i.e. mugilids and Sarpa salpa). In the south group the white sea bream was also very abundant compared to the north group. No significant changes in the community composition were found in the studied period and we successfully set descriptive baselines. Finally, based on these results we propose that studying the data from fishing contest records can be used to complement the available tools for monitoring fish communities.