Current and potential contributions of the Gulf of Lion Fisheries Restricted Area to fisheries sustainability in the NW Mediterranean Sea
Many commercial species of the world are overexploited resulting in substantial reductions of biomass and ecological changes. Spatial-temporal restrictions of fishing activities are important measures used for the management of marine stocks. However, evidence of whether fishing bans benefit whole ecosystems is still scant. Here, we developed a food-web model approach using the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) model representing the Fisheries Restricted Area (FRA) of the Gulf of Lion ecosystem (CoSEGoL model) prior to the establishment of the fisheries restrictions (2006-2008) to characterize the structure and functioning of the ecosystem before and after its establishment. The constructed food-web model was, then, fitted to available time series of data from 2008 to 2016 to verify whether this FRA has contributed to recovery of target demersal species and the demersal community. The fitted model was used to explore alternative future management scenarios to explore feasible management options in order to ensure a full ecosystem recovery under climate change conditions. Both small positive and negative ecosystem changes occurred between prior and after the establishment of the FRA, potentially revealing a lack of protection efficiency and/or enforcement. Scenarios of management options under plausible climate futures revealed possible recovery of targeted species, especially European hake. The study highlighted the importance of considering trophic interactions between predators and prey to identify trade-offs and synergies in fisheries management outcomes and the need to consider both fishing and climate dynamics.