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    Is toothfish catch correlated with the catch of vulnerable benthic invertebrate taxa?

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    S.J. Parker and M.H. Smith (New Zealand)

    Accurate estimation of the true impact of bottom fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) requires knowledge of the distribution of those communities relative to the fishing footprint. If high target fish catch rates are associated with habitats where VMEs are found, impacts from fishing would be higher than if VMEs are distributed randomly with respect to fishing locations. This study used the catch of the six most common vulnerable invertebrate taxa reported by observers on New Zealand vessels during the 2009/10 Ross Sea longline fisheries to correlate toothfish catch rates and benthic invertebrate catch rates at a longline segment level. Analysis of the data available showed no evidence that the presence of any of six VME taxa was related to Antarctic toothfish catch at the scale of a longline segment, approximately 1.2 km. This supports conclusions of previous work finding no relationship between total VME taxa weight and toothfish catch at the scale of a longline set, up to 10km. Our data were too limited for a robust comparison among fishing areas. Further studies at intermediate scales (10–100 km) would be useful to determine if both toothfish and individual VME taxa have regionally concentrated distributions showing a high degree of spatial overlap.