With the growing grey seal population in the Baltic Sea, the inshore cod fishery has suffered dramatic increases in both catch losses and damage to fishing gear. To mitigate this situation, cod pots were evaluated as an alternative to traditional gillnets and longlines. During a 3-year study, cod pots were used by commercial fishers in two areas off the coast of Sweden. Using the data from this study, we evaluated catches from pots in relation to other gear types and investigated the effects of environmental and fisheries-related variables such as depth and soak time. The comparison of pots with other gear types showed that, during the first half of the year, the pot fishery generated lower daily catches than the gillnet and longline fisheries at comparable fishing efforts. During the second half of the year, catches in the pot fishery exceeded or were equal to those in the traditional fisheries. Using generalized additive models to evaluate the impact of environmental and fisheries-related variables on pot catches, we showed that, in both areas, the catch per unit effort (cpue) of legal-sized cod was affected by the water depth, the time of year (months), and the soak time. In one of the areas, cpue was also affected by the direction of the water current in relation to the orientation of the string of pots. The cpue of undersized cod was affected by topographic variables such as the slope and the complexity of the bottom, in addition to the water depth, month of the year, and soak time. The results from the study indicate that pots can be a useful alternative gear in the Baltic cod fishery, at least during part of the year. By using our information on how catches are affected by environmental and fisheries-related variables, the pot fishery may be further optimized to increase catches.
2015. Vol. 72, no 5, 1545-1554 p.