Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

How do fishing vessels interact with other sectors of activity in the Eastern English Channel?

Managing ecosystems is primarily managing people and their activities. A key issue for marine management frameworks is then to anticipate some of the patterns underlying human behaviour, their interactions, and the pressures they may exert on the marine ecosystems they exploit. This study focuses on the Eastern English Channel which has, for a long time, supported the activities of a wide range of users. Of these human activities; fishing, maritime transport and aggregate extractions are probably the most notable for that area. We examined the spatial interactions between fishing activities, aggregates extraction and maritime traffic in the Eastern English Channel, based on two separate investigations. The first investigation analysed the effects of aggregate extraction intensity and the proximity to dredging sites on the fine-scale fishing effort distribution of French and English fleets. The second investigation focused on French otter-trawlers and examined whether maritime traffic could alter fishers' species foraging.


The most striking result was that for most of the fishing fleets and aggregate extraction sites, neither dredging intensity, nor the proximity to the extraction site, had a deterring effect, in the short term, on fishing activities.

The fishing effort of English and French potters was instantaneously cross-correlated with aggregate extraction intensity in two sites. A positive cross-correlation between the fishing effort of French dredgers and aggregate extraction intensity was found at lag 6 in one site. The French otter-trawlers fishing effort was in not consistently cross-correlated to aggregate extraction intensity. The results of a Time Series Cross Section Regression analysis indicated that the fishing effort of all English and French potters targeting large crustaceans and whelk was larger in the vicinity of aggregate extraction sites. The fishing effort of English scallop dredgers also increased with the proximity to two aggregate extraction sites. Only the fishing effort of French otter-trawlers decreased in the vicinity of one aggregate extraction site. The distribution of fishing effort was not related to the distance to aggregate extraction sites for the other fleets.

Finally the relative annual shifts in fishing effort (i.e. ratio between current effort and the effort at the start of the time series) across the impacted, intermediate and reference areas were compared. The difference across the three areas was generally minimal for most fleets operating around English aggregation extraction sites. On the French aggregate extraction sites, a steep increase in fishing effort was evident in the impacted area for the French otter-trawlers, French potters and French netters, while the fishing effort in the intermediate and reference areas remained constant or even decreased.

The processes examined here are integrated into the ISIS-Fish bio-economic model developed within VECTORS WP5.1.


French otter-trawlers are attracted by areas identified as of high abundance densities. For most of the fisheries, the maritime traffic seems to be a perturbation for the fishing activities. However, for some fisheries, vessels seem to respond less to maritime traffic when they expect very high fish densities.

The spatial distribution of fishing effort targeting red mullet and cuttlefish is influenced by both fish abundance and the marine traffic. Fish abundance coefficients, as estimated from a linear model, show a positive attraction for areas of high abundance. By contrast, the coefficient estimated for marine traffic intensity are all significant and negative, suggesting the negative impact of the marine traffic on the fishing density. Boats seem to be attracted by areas of high abundance and low traffic intensities. However, for very high fish density areas, maritime traffic intensity hardly has any influence on the spatial distribution of fishing effort. For plaice which is not a target species but mainly caught as a by-catch, even if the linear model still return a positive effect of the abundance index and a negative effect of the marine traffic intensity, patterns are less contrasted.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention
  • Integrated European Maritime Policy (IMP)
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Lead Author:

Paul Marchal
French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER)
Date of research: January 2014

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Deliberative valuation and the Dogger Bank 

Modelling hotspots of change in the North Sea 

The drivers of a common sole population 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.