Man, murres and modern fisheries : A case study in the Baltic Sea

Abstract: Overfishing and climate change put increasing pressure on marine systems, with effects on commercially targeted fish and top predators dependent on these resources. To achieve sustainable resource use, governance mechanisms need to incorporate knowledge about ecosystem dynamics. Another key for success is the perception among actors about the challenges oceans are facing. Seabirds have become well-known symbols of coasts and oceans and their struggles with the consequences of human actions provide an illustration of the need to properly govern marine resources. Seabirds can be useful indicators of states of marine systems, forming tools that can help informing ecosystem approaches to management. The thesis focuses on the piscivorous seabird the common murre Uria aalge in the Baltic Sea, investigating two different aspects of interactions between seabirds and fisheries. In paper I, the effects of food quality and quantity during the chick-rearing period were investigated. Food quality (sprat Sprattus sprattus weight-at-age), but not quantity (sprat abundance), was positively related to murre fledging success. The adjustments of parental effort in relation to quality and quantity showed the opposite pattern – no relationships between parental effort and sprat weight-at-age but a negative relationship between sprat abundance and the duration of foraging trips. Paper II uses a long-term ring recovery dataset to study murre bycatch in Baltic Sea fisheries. We found an increase in the proportion bycatch between 1972 and 2008, and a strong bimodal intraannual pattern in bycatches, with peaks in spring and autumn, similar in three investigated periods. Uncertain finding dates were common and could potentially affect conclusions about intraannual patterns. Reported bycatches were concentrated to waters around the Hel peninsula, Poland. In recent years, 2000-2008, an increase of reported bycatch could be observed in the southeastern parts of the Baltic Sea. The findings of this thesis can aid the selection and interpretation of indicators for ecosystem approaches to Baltic Sea fisheries management, and further be used to communicate the need for such approaches.

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