Global analysis of response and recovery of benthic biota to fishing

M. J. Kaiser*, K. R. Clarke, Hilmar Hinz, Melanie C. V. Austen, Paul J. Somerfield, I. Karakassis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

481 Citations (Scopus)


Towed bottom-fishing gears are thought to constitute one of the largest global anthropogenic sources of disturbance to the seabed and its biota. The current drive towards an ecosystem approach in fisheries management requires a consideration of the implications of habitat deterioration and an understanding of the potential for restoration. We undertook a meta-analysis of 101 different fishing impact manipulations. The direct effects of different types of fishing gear were strongly habitat-specific. The most severe impact occurred in biogenic habitats in response to scallop-dredging. Analysis of the response of different feeding guilds to disturbance from fishing revealed that both deposit- and suspension-feeders were consistently vulnerable to scallop dredging across gravel, sand and mud habitats, while the response of these groups to beam-trawling was highly dependent upon habitat type. The biota of soft-sediment habitats, in particular muddy sands, were surprisingly vulnerable, with predicted recovery times measured in years. Slow-growing large-biomass biota such as sponges and soft corals took much longer to recover (up to 8 yr) than biota with shorter life-spans such as polychaetes (<1 yr). The results give a possible basis for predicting the outcome of the use of different fishing gears in a variety of habitats with potential utility in a management context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Benthic habitats
  • Feeding guilds
  • Fishing impacts
  • Meta-analysis
  • Recovery time
  • Towed gears

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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