Distribution, abundance and population structure of Hexaplex trunculus and Bolinus brandaris (Gastropoda: Muricidae) in offshore areas of the Gulf of Gabès, southern Tunisia
The banded murex Hexaplex trunculus and purple dye murex Bolinus brandaris are frequently caught as bycatch by bottom trawlers operating in the Gulf of Gabès, southern Tunisia. Although these muricid gastropods might importantly constitute an additional source of income for fishermen as well as help to diversify local shellfish production, information on their catches is relatively scarce. Hence, the present study aimed to assess the status of local populations of H. trunculus and B. brandaris, including data on their spatial and depth distributions, abundance, biomass, population structure and mortality. Fishing surveys using bottom trawls were performed between May 2006 and June 2007 in offshore areas of the Gulf of Gabès. In total, 198 fishing hauls were analysed, corresponding to a total fishing duration of 333.3 hours and a total prospecting area of 1 534 ha at depths of 20–86 m. Altogether, 3 026 H. trunculus and 3 599 B. brandaris of a broad size range (22.9−91.1 and 22.4−97.0 mm shell length, respectively) were sampled during the study period. GIS-produced maps were employed to determine the species’ spatial and bathymetric distributions by extrapolating their estimated fishing yield (bycatch per unit effort), abundance, biomass and mortality in relation to the total area surveyed in the gulf. The results provide valuable baseline information that may be applied to management proposals for regulating this untargeted resource, ultimately assisting sustainable exploitation and long-term preservation of this alternative fishing resource in the offshore areas of the Gulf of Gabès.
Keywords: artisanal fisheries, bottom trawls, bycatch, fishery management, fishery yield, GIS mapping, stock assessment