Modelling Potential Fishery Pressures Facing Western Scotland's Cold Water Coral Reefs
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Cold water coral reefs are of enormous importance to science and society, being hotspots of biodiversity, indicators of past climate and a potential source of new medicines. However, their existence is under threat from pressures including climate change and deep sea mining. In western Scotland the fishing industry poses the greatest threat due to the productivity of the waters. Previous studies have examined the potential impacts of different types of fishing gear upon cold water corals. This dissertation aimed to model potential pressure using fishing activity data in order to inform broader marine policy and conservation strategies. This was achieved by weighting each type of gear in accordance with its potential impact and combining the weighted layers to address three scenarios, revealing spatial and temporal patterns of potential pressure. The results showed that the use of less harmful gear such as nets, hooks, pots and traps warrants greater concern than more destructive gear types because of their greater usage. The results also revealed that inshore reefs face greater pressure than offshore reefs, but that pressure facing offshore reefs is increasing. This could reflect the movement of fishing grounds further offshore as inshore grounds are exhausted. These results were used to recommend corals that are most, least and moderately suitable for marine protection and to produce recommendations for fishing restrictions and regulations, thus contributing towards better management of cold water corals reefs by allowing the implementation of better informed marine conservation strategies.