Size structure of a heavily fished benthic/demersal community by shrimp trawling in the Colombian Caribbean Sea
The benthic and demersal communities in the Colombian Caribbean Sea (CCS) are heavily fished by the shrimp trawling fishery, which presents very high discard levels. Here, we conducted an analysis of the size structure of these benthic and demersal communities in the northern and southern zones of the CCS. Sampling was conducted onboard shrimp trawlers throughout an entire year. No significant differences were found in the size distributions of the two zones, among sites within southern ecoregions, or among the analyzed cruises. This homogeneity in size structure is remarkable since the zones analyzed possess very different species compositions and environmental conditions. The observed size structures were adequately described by non-linear distributions rather than the traditionally employed linear normalized biomass size spectra. It is hypothesized that the non-linearity is due to the effect of fishing and particularly, of discarding. This study emphasizes the need for a greater understanding of the impacts that trawl fishing has on community size structure and the applicability of this knowledge towards fishery resource management in ecosystems with high diversity.