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Interactions between the marine environment, predators and prey: Implications for sustainable sand eel fisheries

The industrial sand eel fishery is the largest single fishery in the North Sea, but sand eels are also major prey for top-predators such as seabirds. Ecosystem effects of sand eel stock collapses have occurred, but the fishing industry contests the view that its activities negatively affect top-predators. Earlier studies on ecosystem effects have focused on the geographical overlap between feeding areas of seabirds and sand eels, but the relationship between prey density and availability to predators is still poorly understood. In this project, predator-prey relations in marine ecosystems will be studied in unprecedented detail using advanced technology, and threshold values of prey density will be established under which feeding is not feasible. The knowledge obtained within this project should provide fishery managers with quality advice with respect to exploitation strategies that mitigate the impact on top-predators of the marine food web.

To assess the potential impact of the sand-ell fisheries on the higher levels of the food web.
To provide quality advice on allowable levels and strategies of human exploitation.

The project will determine the true relationship between hydrography, sand eel population characteristics and foraging performance of seabirds and marine predators. This should enable exploitation strategies to be defined for industrial sand eel fisheries which will mitigate the impact on predators in marine ecosystems.


Scientist responsible for the project

Landsdiep 4, Den Hoorn, Texel Box 59
1790 AB Den Burg
Netherlands (The) - NL

Phone: +31 222 369300
Fax: +31 222 319674


Project ID QLRT-1999-30864
Organisation Stichting Nederlands Institutuut voor Onderzoek der Zee
Area 5.1.2
Start date 01 October 2000
Duration (months) 42
Total cost 4 110 911 €
Total EC contribution   2 578 000 €
Status Unknown

The partners

  • The University Court of the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom (The) - GB
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), United Kingdom (The) - GB
  • The Scottish Ministers, acting through Fisheries Research Services, Marine Laboratory, United Kingdom (The) - GB
  • Stichting Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee, Netherlands (The) - NL
  • Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research, Netherlands (The) - NL

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