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Van Beveren, E., Fromentin, J. - M., Bonhommeau, S., Nieblas, A. - E., Metral, L., Brisset, B., et al. (2017). Predator-prey interactions in the face of management regulations: changes in Mediterranean small pelagic species are not due to increased tuna predation. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 74(9), 1422–1430.
Résumé: Recently, the abundance of young Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) tripled in the northwestern Mediterranean following effective management measures. We investigated whether its predation on sardine (Sardina pilchardus) and anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) could explain their concurrent size and biomass decline, which caused a fishery crisis. Combining the observed diet composition of bluefin tuna, their modelled daily energy requirements, their population size, and the abundance of prey species in the area, we calculated the proportion of the prey populations that were consumed by bluefin tuna annually over 2011-2013. To assess whether tuna could alter the size structure of the three small pelagic fish populations (anchovy, sardine, and sprat (Sprattus sprattus)), the size distributions of the consumed prey species were compared with those of the wild populations. We estimated that the annual consumption of small pelagic fish by bluefin tuna is less than 2% of the abundance of these populations. Furthermore, size selectivity patterns were not observed. We thus concluded that tuna predation is unlikely to be the main cause of major changes in the small pelagic fish populations from this area.