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Vessel monitoring systems (VMS) reveal an increase in fishing efficiency following regulatory changes in a demersal longline fishery


A global expansion of satellite-based monitoring is making fisher behavioral responses to management actions increasingly observable. However, such data have been underutilized in evaluating the impacts of fishing on target and non-target fish stocks or the ramifications of management strategies on fishers. We demonstrate how vessel monitoring system (VMS) data can provide a suite of metrics (such as effort) for improving inputs to stock assessments, dynamic delineation of fishing grounds, and evaluation of regulatory or other (e.g., climatic) impacts on fisher performance. Using >1 million VMS records from the Gulf of Mexico grouper-tilefish demersal longline fishery, we first develop a generalized additive modeling approach that predicts fishing duration with ∼85% accuracy. We combine model predictions with logbook data to compare the fishery before and after implementation of a suite of regulatory changes (e.g., a shift to catch share management). We find a large-scale reduction in fleet size, accompanied by reduced fishing effort (duration * number of hooks), shorter trips, lower operational expenses, higher catch rates, and more earnings for those vessels that remained in the fishery. We discuss how the combination of VMS and associated metrics can be expanded for use in management strategy evaluation, parameterizing economic models of fisher behavior, improving fishery-dependent stock assessment indices, and deriving socioeconomic indicators in fisheries worldwide.

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