Modelling spatial distribution of Patagonian toothfish through life-stages and sex and its implications for the fishery on the Kerguelen Plateau
Peron, C and Welsford, DC and Ziegler, P and Lamb, TD and Gasco, N and Chazeau, C and Sinegre, R and Duhamel, G, Modelling spatial distribution of Patagonian toothfish through life-stages and sex and its implications for the fishery on the Kerguelen Plateau, Progress in Oceanography, 141 pp. 81-95. ISSN 0079-6611 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Size and sex specific habitat preferences are common in animal populations and can have important implications for sound spatial management of harvested species. Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a commercially exploited fish species characterised by its longevity (>50 yo) and its extremely broad distribution in depths ranging from 10 m to 2500 m on most of the Plateaux, banks and seamounts of the Southern Ocean. As many bentho-pelagic fish species, Patagonian toothfish exhibits sexual dimorphism and ontogenetic habitat shift towards deeper waters as they grow. In this study, we modelled the spatial structure of Patagonian toothfish population (median total length and sex composition) in a data-rich area, the Kerguelen Plateau (Southern Indian Ocean), to better understand the ecological drivers of their distributional patterns and inform current and future fishery management strategies. We applied spatially-explicit statistical models to quantify and predict the effects of the complex topography of the Kerguelen Plateau in structuring the spatial distribution of Patagonian toothfish total length and sex ratio, while controlling for gear selectivity and season. Model predictions showed that juvenile toothfish live in shallow regions (shelf and banks) and move downward progressively up to 600 m while they grow. Between 600 m and 1200 m, the downward movement stops and fish settle at their preferred depths. While in this depth range, fish are ∼75 cm long and most vulnerable to fisheries. As they approach maturity large fish move downward to deep-sea habitats (from 1200 m to >2300 m) and head towards the spawning grounds on the western side of the plateau and around Skiff Bank. Importantly, the sex ratio was not evenly distributed across the Plateau; prediction maps revealed a higher proportion of females in the South whereas a strong male-bias sex ratio (70%) occurred in the North-West. Large-scale prediction maps derived from our models assisted in developing hypotheses regarding ecological drivers of Patagonian toothfish habitat-use and movement across different life stages and sex. Such hypotheses are crucial to inform management strategies of this multijurisdictional fishery (France and Australia) at the spatial and temporal scales over which natural processes and fishery extend.