Open net pen
Branzino are carnivorous fish native to the Mediterranean Sea. ‘Branzino’ includes two species: the European sea bass and gilthead sea bream. These fish are often held and raised together at the same farming operations. Production is substantial in the Mediterranean, as branzino operations are responsible for the largest volume of aquaculture production in the region.
Due to their direct contact with the marine environment, marine net-pens pose an inherent risk to the surrounding habitat and fish populations. It is not uncommon for framed branzino to escape into the surrounding environment, however these escapements have yet to negatively affect the wild population through genetic mixing or disease. Fish take 14-16 months to grow to a marketable weight of approximately 0.5 kg. Over the course of their life, some branzino are treated with antibiotics including flumequin, which is not legal for aquaculture-use in all countries and may pose a risk to human health.
Overall data availability for these fisheries is fair, with the majority of information discussing impacts to habitat and stock source, and diseases. Regulations pertaining to these aquaculture operations exist both regionally (i.e., Europe Union countries) and also by country. At both levels, policies focus on preventing negative impacts from waste and discharge on the surrounding environment. Although the majority of feed is sourced from sustainable fisheries or processed byproducts, by using smaller fish to farm branzino, there is still a net loss in fish production. With regard to farm location, there is no evidence to suggest that any highly-vulnerable or endangered wild populations are impacted by branzino operations.
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Bottom gillnet, Bottom trawl, Handline, Midwater trawl
United Kingdom, France
Black sea bream is a hermaphroditic fish, which inhabits the northeast Atlantic shelf down through the Mediterranean sea. This species is landed in the English Channel by both French and UK fleets using multiple gear types, including handlines, fixed nets and trawls. While landings appear sustainable, associated bycatch and a lack of implemented management plans are an ongoing concern.
Black sea bream mature as females before switching to become male around 2-3 years of age. As a result, these fish have a medium vulnerability to fishing pressure. While the English Channel stock of black sea bream is not currently believed to be overfished, estimates of their abundance as well as the sex-ratio of this population remain unknown. Currently, few management measures exist for the black sea bream fisheries and their associated bycatch. While current efforts are aimed at restricting the impacts of trawling gears, catch limits and data collection plans for this species have yet to be implemented.
Quantitative information on bycatch specific to the black sea bream fisheries does not exist. In the English Channel, bottom and mid-water trawlers are known to catch Atlantic cod, European sea Bass, and Atlantic horse mackerel. Bycatch of Atlantic cod and horse mackerel are of concern due to low abundance and overfishing of these species. Handline is a highly selective fishery and has negligible impacts on other species.
Since black seabream often make their nests in firm, gravel-based locations, bottom trawling for this species has fewer seafloor impacts than in other fisheries. Fixed nets using weights pose very little threat to the surrounding habitat as well, and handline fishing and mid-water trawling have almost no impact on the surrounding environment.
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