PAIS, A.; SERRA, S.; MELONI, G.; SABA, S., and CECCHERELLI, G., 2012. Harvesting effects on Paracentrotus lividus population structure: A case study from northwestern Sardinia, Italy, before and after the fishing season.
The edible sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus is commercially exploited in many European countries. In recent years, however, its stocks have shown a large reduction in several regions because of overfishing. This paper reports the effects of harvesting on P. lividus population structure in shallow rocky reefs from a central-western Mediterranean area where this activity is intensively practiced. Density, size (test diam), and biomass of sea urchin were assessed in October 2004 (just before the fishing season) and in May 2005 (immediately after the fishing season) at two locations where intense P. lividus harvest occurs and at two controls within an adjacent Marine Protected Area (MPA) where P. lividus harvest is prohibited. Density, size, and average biomass of P. lividus were significantly higher at the protected areas than at the exploited ones. In particular, large-sized specimens (test diam >5 cm) were notably less abundant at the fished locations; however, very similar results were detected for both the periods examined (i.e., before and after the fishing season), suggesting that effects of pressing activity of harvest through the past years may have produced effects much more evident than those attributable to the single fishing season. These results reveal the existence of a heavy-fishing impact on P. lividus in northwestern Sardinia and the urgent need of regulating its harvesting to prevent severe direct effects on its populations.