Satellite-based quantification of the bottom trawling induced sediment resuspension over an entire shelf

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Ferdinand J Oberle, MARUM - University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany, Olivia M Cheriton, USGS California Water Science Center Menlo Park, Menlo Park, CA, United States and Till Jens Joerg Hanebuth, MARUM - University of Bremen, Marine Sedimentation Systems Group, Bremen, Germany
The effect of bottom trawling activities on continental shelves has been a topic of interest for both fishery resource studies and ecological impact studies for a while. However, the impact of demersal fishing gear was almost exclusively studied from a perspective of its effects on benthic fauna, but recently it has also attracted attention due to its profound impact on sediments. Here we present the first study to quantify the trawling-induced sediment resuspension effect by combining satellite-based spatial patterns of bottom trawling with quantitative measurements of induced sediment plumes. This study examined high-resolution GPS vessel monitoring data from one year (2011-2012) to quantify the sedimentary budget caused by bottom trawling activity for the entire NW Iberian shelf, an area that is widely affected by chronic (continuous and intensive) commercial bottom trawling and is exemplary for many other narrow shelves worldwide.

By filtering the GPS data by vessel type, vessel speed, and geometry of the trawl path, we resolved geographically detailed bottom trawling activities with varying local trawling intensities depending both on legal restrictions and bedrock geomorphology. Initial results show that trawling-induced resuspended sediments mark a significant if not dominant factor for a source to sink sedimentary budget, as they are calculated to be approximately two times as large as fluvial sedimentary input to the shelf.

Ultimately, these results not only allow for a trawling affected sediment budget but also significantly help with marine management decisions by allowing to predict the mobilization and transport of sediment caused by bottom trawling gear at the level of a specific fishing fleet or ecosystem.