The Atlantic sea scallop Placopecten magellanicus dredge fishery is one of the most lucrative commercial fishing industries in the northeastern United States, and fish bycatch can comprise up to ~42% of the total catch. Benthic species, such as flatfish, are particularly susceptible to unintended capture in scallop dredge gear, and mitigating bycatch and associated mortality has been mandated a priority for fisheries management. Based on this management need, the present study evaluated the physical, physiological, and behavioral stress responses of Yellowtail Flounder Limanda ferruginea, Windowpane Scophthalmus aquosus, and Fourspot Flounder Paralichthys oblongus to capture in the scallop dredge fishery. More specifically, we used generalized additive models and linear regression models to assess the influence of various fishing practices, environmental conditions, and biological factors on injury condition, physiological parameters, and reflex indicators. Although these flatfish species appeared to be physically resilient to capture based on an observable injury assessment, dredge capture and handling factors proved stressful, with the degree of immediate mortality, physiological disturbances, and reflex impairment varying by species. While multiple factors influenced the degree of stress in these species, based on our results the reduction of tow duration and limiting air exposure/sorting duration would likely be the most effective strategies to mitigate the impact of scallop dredge fishing on these flatfish species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science