Evaluations of the effects of management measures on fish populations are usually based on the analyses of population dynamics and estimates of fishing mortality from stock assessments. However, this approach may not be applicable in all cases, in particular for data-limited stocks, which may suffer from uncertain catch information and consequently lack reliable estimates of fishing mortality. In this study we develop an approach to obtain proxies for changes in fishing mortality based on effort information and predicted stock distribution. Cod in the Kattegat is used as an example. We use GAM analyses to predict local cod densities and combine this with spatio-temporal data of fishing effort based on VMS (Vessel Monitoring System). To quantify local fishing impact on the stock, retention probability of the gears is taken into account. The results indicate a substantial decline in the impact of the Danish demersal trawl fleet on cod in the Kattegat in recent years, due to a combination of closed areas, introduction of selective gears and changes in overall effort.
I C E S Journal of Marine Science, 2013, Vol 70, Issue 3, p. 618-627