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Overlap of predicted cold-water coral habitat and bottom-contact fisheries in British Columbia

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(Research Project) M.R.M.
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Recently, there has been increased interest in studying impacts of bottom-contact fishing on cold-water corals (class Anthozoa) due to the role corals play in providing biogenic habitat as well as their limited capacity to recover from disturbance. Lack of information on the distribution of coral in British Columbia limits our ability to evaluate the extent and intensity of fishing activity in coral habitat. In this thesis, suitable habitat for four orders of coral (Alcyonacea, Antipatharia, Pennatulacea, and Scleractinia) was predicted using the species distribution modelling tool, Maxent. The extent of overlap between predicted coral habitat and footprints of three bottom-contact fisheries was determined. Depending on the type of coral, fishing has occurred in 30.4 to 46.5% of predicted habitat, with effort being disproportionately concentrated in areas of predicted coral habitat. Results strongly suggest that coral habitat in BC requires protection from fishing activity to guarantee long-term viability of coral populations.
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