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Melicertus (Penaeus) kerathurus (Forskål, 1775)

  SPECIES DESCRIPTION
  ECOLOGY
    Geographical distribution
    Habitats
    Migrations
  BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION
    Maximum size
    Spawning
    Length at first maturity
    Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
    Recruitment and nursery areas
    Sex ratio
    Length-weight relationships
    Maximum age and natural mortality
    Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
    Feeding behaviour
    Stock units
  EVALUATION AND EXPLOITATION
    Catch rates from experimental trawling and monitoring of fisheries
    Strength of recruitment
    Fishing mortality (F) and abundance (N)
    Yield per recruit
    Increase in mesh size of trawlers
    Fisheries
    Fishing zones and seasons
    Yeld
    Fishing and discards
    Legislation and management


Figure 22. Melicertus kerathurus (Foskål, 1775)

   
Class:  Malacostraca
Order:  Decapoda
Family:  Penaeidae
English name:  Caramote prawn
   

SPECIES DESCRIPTION

The caramote prawn, Melicertus kerathurus (Forskål, 1775) belongs to the family Penaeidae. This species is also known by the scientific names Penaeus sulcatus (Leach, 1814) and Penaeus caramota (Risso, 1816). Common names used locally to refer to this shrimp are: caramote (France), langostino (Spain), mazzancolla (Italy), caramote (England), gombri and shrimp (Tunisia). The hierarchy in the super-class Crustacea was studied by Véron (1995) and Falciai and Minervini (1996).
This is a large shrimp exceeding 22 cm in total length it has a beige coloured esoskeleton with dark transverse bands forming separate spots on the side of the body and with blue uropodes. The first three pairs of legs have pincers. The telson is sharp and has three sides of movable spines. Laterally, the first abdominal segment covers the second. The rostrum is short and barely goes beyond the eyes; it has eight to thirteen dorsal spines and just one ventral spine.
The caudal end is sky blue, bordered with red. The appendages are yellowish. Behind the last dorsal tooth, there is a double hull with a typically deep median furrow extending to the posterior edge of the carapace; a long ridge runs parallel to the rostrum.
In the hepatic region there is a ridge in the anterior – ventral direction; the gastrointestinal front peak is present. The abdomen has a dorsal keel in all segments and ends with a spine on the sixth segment.

Morphological aspects
The body of the caramota is segmented and protected by a chitinous carapace, and can be divided into two distinct regions (Figure 23):

  • Carapace: composed of 14 segments, protected on the back and sides by a vast carapace partly merged with the ventral segments and ending before a rostrum.

  • Abdomen: a hinged piece that consists of six mobile segments and an end piece (telson) where the anus opens. The sixth segment has two fan-like appendages on each side (uropods) which together with the telson form the swimming apparatus


Figure 23. Morphology of caramote Melicertus kerathurus (Foskål, 1775). 1 - Carapace, 2-Abdomen, 3-Rostrum, 4-Antennules, 5-Scaphocérite, 6-Antennas, 7-Maxilliped, 8 - Swimmerets, 9-Telson, 10-Peraeopods, 11-Uropods; cephalon = acron.

The head includes six pairs of cephalic appendages. Thus we can distinguish in order, a first pair stalked eyes and two pairs of sensory appendages that are suites consisting of antennules and antennae, the last three pairs of appendages are masticatory (mandibles maxillae and maxillules). The head extends forward with a short snout, barely above the eyes, armed with teeth numbering from 8 to 13 on the dorsal edge and a single tooth on the ventral edge which is characteristic of this species. Duplication of the dorsal keel to form a deep and narrow furrow is the salient feature of this species.

Thorax (Pereion)
The thorax (Pereion) is surmounted by a heavily calcified carapace with a hepatic spine, a short neck between the groove of the head and two branchiomotor heart grooves allow recognition of the longitudinal median cardiac region and two lateral gill regions.
It has eight pairs of appendages or peraeopods, the first three pairs or maxillipedes belong to the mouthparts and provide masticatory functions, the posterior five pairs permit movement and terminated by pincers (first 3 pairs) or claws (both others). The third pereiopod is slightly more developed than the second. Furthermore, there are gills for breathing.

Abdomen
There are six perfectly distinct metameric segments, each bearing a pair of biramous pleopods or appendices. Pleopods generally used for swimming. In males, the endopodites of the pleopod have a modified copulatory organ (petasma), with which the male introduces a spermatophore to the female during mating.

Telson
It is pierced by the anal orifice that is ventrally visible and terminated by a three-pointed sharp tip.

ECOLOGY

Geographical distribution – formatting of sections and subsections will be defined at a later stage
Melicertus kerathurus has a wide geographical distribution in the world (Figure 24). It is found throughout the Mediterranean basin (including the Marmara Sea) and in the Atlantic from Portugal to Angola (d'Udekem d'Acoz, 1999). In the eastern Atlantic it has been occasionally reported in the south of England.


Figure 24. Geographical distribution of Melicertus kerathurus (Jaziri et al., 2011)

In Tunisia this species is especially abundant in the Gulf of Gabès, which has been known for a long time. Indeed, Ponzevera (Heldt and Held, 1954) reported its existence on the Tunisian coast since 1891. Darboux in 1906 (Heldt and Held, 1954), reported the prawn (Penaeus caramota) in the Bay of Bizerte in Tunisia, off Sousse and Sfax. It was caught, in the sandy-muddy area of Medjerda where the best catches occur. In 1920, the species was found for the first time in the Gulf of Gabès and in the North-East of Djerba. In 1923 Charcot caught this prawn by trawling in the Eastern Kerkennah Archipelago (Heldt and Held, 1954).

Habitats
M. kerathurus is a demersal species living in coastal areas or in brackish water on sandy or sandy mud bottoms. It can be found at depths of 0.5 to 100 m but it is common between 5 and 40 m. The largest concentrations are in the Gulf of Gabès (Ben Meriem, 1995). Although the caramota is considered to be present at all depths, the best catches are recorded at shallow depths reflecting the coastal nature of this species (Azouz, 1972; Ben Mustapha, 1967). In addition, the abundance of this species appears to decrease with depth (Gharbi and Ben Meriem, 1996). Exceptionally, in the Strait of Sicily, the species has been recorded at maximum depths of 640 m (Ragonese and Giusto, 1998).
M. Kerathurus live in very different environmental conditions. It was found in brackish estuaries, in water with high salinity and in very shallow waters at the shore, as well as further offshore at greater depths on muddy bottoms in pits of debris and on clean seabeds with sand and seagrass (Heldt, 1932; Heldt, 1954; Heldt and Heldt, 1954; Azouz, 1972).

Migrations
Very small juveniles lead a sedentary life near the shores at very shallow depths. At 5 to 8 cm juveniles begin migrating to a depth of about 50 meters where they await the spring season to reach the spawning grounds. George (1977) reported that the shrimp caught off buoys 6 and 7 in the Gulf of Gabès were likely to come from the coast of the Kerkennah islands and those caught in the North and North East of Djerba island from the pits in the Gulf of Gabès.
The caramote performs two types of migration: one trophic vertical and one genetic, horizontal migration (Zouari, 1984). During the day it reacts to the solar irradiance with a negative phototropism and goes towards the bottom, sinking completely into the sand or mud, hiding among the vegetation such as algae, Posidonia or plant debris. On the contrary, at night the shrimp temporarily leaves this area to swim and make incursions into neighboring areas to feed (Ben Mustapha, 1967).
In the Gulf of Gabès, caramote appears to migrate in April-May to the pits at a depth of about 25m, where there is a breeding ground with favorable spawning conditions (Heldt, 1954). These pits are mainly those of Chaffar Skhira and Zarrat and buoys in front of the area of Fora Mustapha.
In relation to bathimetric distribution during the horizontal migration Ben Meriem (1998) reported that the young fraction of the population stays strictly within the coastal area while the largest prawns occupy the deepest areas. Most catches are based on the oldest fraction of the population. In addition, Ben Khemis (1984), indicated that all young individuals of this species are to be found in very shallow waters and migrate slowly to deeper waters occupying different ecological niches. Larger individuals are more abundant over 40 m depth.

BIOLOGICAL DATA

Maximum size
M. kerathurus is a large shrimp: the total length from the tip of the rostrum to the end of the telson is usually 11-14 cm for males and 13-17 cm for females. The maximum size (L∞) were observed in Greece and in Italy, respectively, of 25.2 and 27.2 cm total length (TL) (Anon., 2011).
Ben Meriem (1995), following a sample of commercial landings in the Gulf of Gabès, indicates that the largest females measured 64.4 mm carapace length (CL) and, for males, maximum length was 45.2mm CL. Very similar sizes were observed during the shrimp monitoring campaigns in the Gulf during the last decade. A larger size (66.3 mm CL) was observed in the trawl landings in Mahdia in 1998. Fairly similar sizes were reported in the Amvrakikos Gulf (Ionian Sea, western Greece) and off the southern coast of Sicily. Conides et al. (2006) indicated a size of 62 mm CL based on sampling carried out from June 1999 to May 2001. Vitale et al. (2010) reported a maximum size of 63.3 mm CL in commercial catch of Selinunte artisanal fleet in month sampling from May to September 2006.
It is important to note that these differences observed on maximum size should be interpreted with caution: shrimp are caught in different regions with different gears (trawl, net, weir) and selectivity can play an important role in the observed size. In addition, the different levels of exploitation and the state of the various stocks could play a role.

Spawning
Benthic spawning begins from June to July and lasts until late September, early October, while older females are more precocious (Ben Meriem, 1993).
It is important to note that a similar pattern of seasonal reproduction (April-September) has been observed in Greece in the Ionian Sea (May to September; Conides et al., 2008), in Turkey in the Aegean Sea (May to October; Turkmen et al., 2007) and in Sicily.

Length at first maturity
The size at first sexual maturity of female of M. kerathurus in the Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia) was determined using two performance criteria: the presence of spermatophore and/or an ovigerous condition. To do this, the proportion of mature or fertilized females, depending on the size, was adjusted by a logistic function of the type: P=1/(1+exp(-a(CL-CL50))). The carapace length, corresponding to 50% of mature females is between 29 and 30 mm CL (130 mm total length). The egg-laying period, measured by the monthly monitoring of the maturation index (MI = ovary weight/size), spans from June-July to October (Table 7, Figure 25). In addition, spawning in older females precedes that of younger females by 3 months.

Table 7. Monthly evolution of the maturation index estimated as ovary weight/size of mature females of M. kerathurus in southern Tunisia.

Month
Maturity index
Month
Maturity index

Jan.97
6.9
July.98
-
Feb.97
3.2
Aug 98
30.4
Mar.97
3.7
Sept. 98
35.0
April 97
6.4
Oct. 98
6.7
May 97
43.3
Nov. 98
2.8
June 97
36.8
Dec. 98
-

Figure 25. Monthly evolution of the maturation index estimated as ovary weight/size of mature females of M. kerathurus in southern Tunisia.

The size at first maturity expressed as carapace length (CL) was estimated using a logistic function of the type: P = 1 / (1 + exp (-a (CL-CL50))). The parameters obtained are shown in Table 8.

Table 8. Size at first maturity equation parameters for M. kerathurus the Gulf of Gabes, Tunisia. CLxx = carapace length at xx percentage of maturity; CL50 = approximation ofr size at first maturity (Ben Meriem, 1993).

Parameters Author Author

A
CL50

CL25
CL75

0.2219
30.3
0.965
~27.0
~33.0
0.0148
1.58
-
-
-

Turkmen et al. (2007) indicates a CL50 = 4.8 cm CL (or 17.8 cm total length) for females in Turkey. Similar size at first maturity values were estimated by Conides et al. (2008) in western Greece. These results are significantly higher than those found in the Gulf of Gabès. This could be attributed to environmental conditions and fishery operations that are not the same.

Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
Information on this aspect in the MedSudMed geographical area is scarce. According to Heldt (1938), eggs released by females remain on the bottom where they undergo embryonic development. At hatching, Nauplius larvae emerge and during successive metamorphoses relevant morphological changes take place. During the next phase, comprising three stages, the larvae become pelagic Protozoea rising into open water where they will be transformed into Mysis. The pelagic period ends one or two metamorphoses after Mysis stage IV; at this time the advanced larvae migrate to the coast, where they metamorphose into post-larval stages.

Recruitment and nursery areas
Nurseries of M. kerathurus were in very shallow water near the shore and juveniles migrate later to 25m pits at first sexual maturity size. According to surveys carried out in the Gulf of Gabes (Gharbi and Ben Meriem, 1996; Ben Meriem, unpublished), recruitment to fishery occurs in autumn in areas very close to the nurseries. According to Vitale et al. (2010) the first wave of recruitment to the commercial stock occurs in August. The small shrimps caught in April and May are likely to be specimens born late in the previous year’s reproduction period. The relatively small size of these shrimps is probably due to the low temperature they face during autumn and winter time that reduce their growth.

Sex ratio
During the surveys carried out in the Gulf of Gabès (Gharbi and Ben Meriem, 1996; Ben Meriem unpublished), the sex ratio of M. kerathurus was about 0.5 at size of first maturity. Overall, a larger number of males (sex-ration in favour of males) at small size classes was found. A dominance of females (sex-ratio in favour of females) at larger size classes was also observed.
With respect to the spawning season, the overall sex ratio is generally close to 0.5 during the period of sexual rest but vary substantially in favour of females during the reproduction period (summer), when abundance peaks are generally observed (from bottom trawl surveys and commercial catch observations, data not published). In addition, females dominate at all depths throughout the spawning period at the end of which (autumn) bathymetric distribution changes in favour of males which prevail at greater depths while females become more coastal.
Moreover, females carrying spermatophores are present all year round but the fertilization rate remains low until the approach of the spawning period during which it involves all individuals that have reached the size of first sexual maturity. Furthermore, in the Gulf of Tunis, Ben Mustapha (1967) indicated a high percentage of females (60%) from the late spring to early summer. So it seems that there is some gender segregation favouring females at the time of reproduction. In addition, a sex-ratio of 59.1 % in favour of females was registered in Turkey (Turkmen and Yilmazyerli, 2006).

Length-weight relationships
The length-weight relationship by sex resulting after the surveys carried out in the Gulf of Gabès (Ben Meriem unpublished) is reported in Table 9.

Table 9. Length-weight relationship (W = a Lb) parameters for M. kerathurus in the Gulf of Gabès (Ben Meriem, 1993).

Coefficients Males Females Male - Females

a
b

0.00465
2.413
0.00356
2.478
0.00469
2. 406

Maximum age and natural mortality
According to Ben Meriem (2004), the life cycle of caramota lasts about three years. This species is characterised by rapid growth and a relatively high rate of natural mortality. Studies in Italy and Greece indicate longevity between 2 and 3 + years. Along the southern coast of Sicily, the longevity is 3.85 years (Vitale et al., 2010). These results suggest 3-4 years as longevity as already found for other Penaeid shrimps (Sheehy, 1990a, b; Sheehy et al., 1995; Vila et al., 2000).
Mortality was calculated using the Pauly and Rikhter and Efanov formulas, and values varied from 0.44 to 0.98 yr-1 (Ben Meriem unpublished). This latter value seems most plausible given the biology of the species. Using the Pauly formula and a seawater mean temperature of 17°C, Vitale et al. (2010), found a M value = 0.94 yr-1. Conides et al. (2006) indicates a value of 1.15 M for both sexes combined in the Ionian Sea. In a recent study, Kevrekidis and Thessalou-Legakia (2011) found that the total mortality in the Thermaikos Gulf (Aegean Sea) ranged from 1.64 to 3.98 year-1.

Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
Ben Meriem (1995) approached growth of M. kerathurus by splitting the length frequency distribution into normal (Gaussian) components. Ben Meriem (1995) assigned each of these components an average size and an age based on the spawning date and the sampling age. An overview of VBGF parameters for M. kerathurus is provided in Table 4. The estimated mean length at size and the growth curve are shown in Figure 26.
Vitale et al. (2010), described the growth of the species by sex combined in the coastal water off southern Sicily, through the seasonalised VBGF. The value of the amplitude parameter C indicates that the growth rate increased by 29% at the peak of the growth season.
The parameters of the Von Bertalanffy growth curve by sex available for different Mediterranean areas are summarized in the Table 10.

Table 10. Comparison of growth parameters of M. kerathurus. Wp = Winter Point, and indicates the period of the year (expressed as fraction of the year) when growth is lowest; C = factor which expresses the amplitude of the growth oscillations according to the seasonalized version of VBGF as reported in Pauly (1987).

Author Area/GSA Sex CL (mm) K t0 Remarks

Dall et al., 1990
Rodriguez, 1987
El Mekki, 1994
Ben Meriem (1995)

Rodriguez, 1987
El Mekki, 1994
Conides et al., 2005
Conides et al., 2005
Vitale et al., 2010
Kevrekidis and Thessalou-Legakia (2011)
Kevrekidis and Thessalou-Legakia (2011)
Ben Meriem (2004)

Gulf of Cadiz
Gulf of Cadiz
GSA 4
GSA 12
GSA 14
Gulf of Cadiz
GSA 4
GSA 20
GSA 20
GSA 16
GSA 22
GSA 22
GSA 14
F
F
F
F
M
M
M
F
M
F+M+I
F
M
F+M
41,9
78,8
64,14
54,25
37,46
58,33
45,5
69.7
62.66
72
62.48
47.78
180.3
0,795
0,43
0,8
0,6
0,78
0,382
1
1.06
1.25
0.78
1.15
1.28
0.69
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
-0.88
-1.00
n.a.
n.a.
0.238
0.001
n.a.
-0.158
-0.138
-0.94
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Wp=0.55;C=0.29;
C = 0.87;WP = 0.16;Rn = 0.170
C = 0.97;WP = 0.12;Rn = 0.205
-


Figure 26. Growth curves of M. kerathurus in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia (Ben Meriem, 2004).

Feeding behaviour
No specific studies of the diet of M. kerathurus in the MedSudMed region have been carried out, except very old observations by Heldt (1938) and Ben Mustpha (1967). However, a study by Karani et al. (2005), reported information on the diet of adults and juveniles of M. kerathurus in thenorth-west of the Aegean Sea. Multivariate analyses showed that the diets of juvenile and adult individuals differed significantly. Adults showed a diet consisting mainly of molluscs, crustaceans and polychaetes. Juveniles feed mainly on crustaceans.

Stock units
Genetic studies of populations of M. kerathurus from Eastern and Western Tunisia show distinct units (Zitari-Chatti et al., 2008). According to Pellerito et al. (2009), differences in mDNA of M. kerathurus from Selinunte (southern Sicily) and Sfax (Gulf of Gabes) were also found. These results, together with fisheries information, suggest the existence of separate stocks of M. kerathurus in the Strait of Sicily, although their boundaries are still unknown.

EVALUATION AND EXPLOITATION

Catch rates from experimental trawling and monitoring of fisheries
Biomass index of M. kerathurus has not regularly been monitored in the central Mediterranean. However, some experimental hauls were carried out in the past, in Tunisia (Ben Khemis, 1984; Ben Meriem, 1992, 1998), Libya (Daw, pers. comm.; Lamboeuf et al., 1995) and southern Sicily by monitoring catch and fishing effort (Cannizzaro et al., 2011).
Mean catch rates from experimental trawling from Tunisia vary from year to year and between the seasons (Table 11).

Table 11. Mean catch rates of M. kerathurus in the Guf of Gabès, Tunisia (Ben Khemis, 1984; Ben Meriem, 1992, 1998).

Season Summer Autumn

end 1980s
end 1990s
2006

6kg/h
4kg/h
3.2kg/h
5kg/h
1.2kg/h
3.2kg/h

The results of experimental trawling conducted in Libya in 1993-1994 (Lamboeuf et al, 1995), show that M. kerathurus is exclusively fished in the western part of Libyan waters (GSA 21) and at depths not exceeding 100 m. In Figure 27 are illustrated the Biomass Index of M. kerathurus and Parapenaeus longirostris reported in Rawag (2004).


Figure 27. Biomass indices (kg h-1) M. kerathurus (depth <100m) and P. longirostris (from Rawag et al., 2004).

Monitoring of catch and fishing effort of M. kerathurus off the west coast of Sicily (Italy) between Cape San Marco and Cape Granitola from 1998 to 2010 shows that the catch per unit effort decreased substantially from 2002 to 2009 with the exception of 2005 probably due to favorable climatic conditions (Figure 28) (Cannizzaro et al., 2011).
In addition, CPUE of this species has been calculated for the Gulf of Amvrakikos in Greece showing that the M. kerathurus population is seasonally distributed between 0 and 63m depth, with a negative CPUE-depth relationship (Kevrekidis and Thessalou-Legaki, 2006). Peak of CPUE was also observed in Italy (Lesina lagoon) in the months from August to October (Scordella and Lumare, 2001).


Figure 28. CPUE in weight (kg) of M. kerathurus (Cannizzaro et al., 2011).

Strength of recruitment
There is little information on this aspect for caramota. The size at fishery recruitment in the Gulf of Gabès was 7 cm total length. Indirect estimates from the analysis of cohort size conducted in 1998 (Ben Meriem, 1998) and 2004 (Ben Meriem, 2004) show that recruitment varies substantially. Indeed, the estimate made in 1998 gives a value near 27 * 1010 while the 2004 gives a value of about 40 * 1010.

Fishing mortality (F) and abundance (N)
Studies of stock dynamics on M. kerathurus are very rare in the central Mediterranean. In the Gulf of Gabès caramota is fished by trawlers and artisanal fisheries, with the most of the catch by trawlers. Stock assessment exercises carried out using analytical models (Length Cohort Analysis, LCA) showed that fishing mortality is generally moderate, the average being about 0.35 (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007). However, F values differ significantly depending on the size. F is very low (< 0.1) for very young individuals with a size of less than 100 mm (Figure 29), but it increases rapidly at the size of first sexual maturity (127mm) when it nears a value of around 0.4. Exploitation therefore chiefly targets adults, providing the stock a certain robustness and resistance to exploitation.
The F values of trawlers on the classes below 120 mm remain relatively low. In contrast, fishing mortality by artisanal coastal fisheries, although lower than that caused by trawlers, shows the capture of a larger percentage of juveniles (= immature) compared to trawlers. The evolution of survivors and catches in numbers according to the size is shown in Figure 30.


Figure 29. Fishing mortality of shrimp in the Gulf of Gabès (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007).


Figure 30. Stock and catch in numbers of M. kerathurus the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007).

According to Vitale et al. (2010), the exploited stock off the south-western Sicilian coast is composed of two dominant modes (i.e. one and two years old individuals) plus a few individuals up to three years old. The assessement of stock status was based on analysis of the exploitation rate (E=F/Z). A total mortality, Z, based on the mean carapace length of shrimp in the catch, was 1.49 yr−1 using the Beverton and Holt equation and 1.28 yr−1 using the Ault and Ehrhardt equation. Considering an instantaneous natural mortality M = 0.94 yr−1, the exploitation ratio E was estimated between 0.26 and 0.37. Based on the above information, Authors concluded that off the south-western coast of Sicily the Caramote prawn stock was exploited at relatively low level.

Yield per recruit
According to Yield per Recruit Analysis (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007), an increase in current fishing effort would bring about an increase in production in the long term (Figure 31). This increase would reach 17% if current effort is doubled. On the contrary, any increase in effort would have a significant effect on the spawning stock biomass. Indeed, a 50% increase in effort would result in a long-term decline exceeding 10% and would jeopardise the success of the recruitment for the following years (Figure 9). The results of this analysis on the spawning biomass show a reduction in effort would improve biomass substantially. Thus, for a 50% reduction in effort, the gains that can be expected would be approximately 16%.
Despite the apparent state of exploitation of the shrimp stock in the Gulf of Gabès, according to the results of the yield per recruit, the current level of fishing effort should not be increased to ensure high level of standing stock and the sustainability of the caramota fisheries in this region.


Figure 31. Relative variations of sustainable production and of spawning stock biomass (SSB) as a function of fishing effort for M. kerathurus in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia. Dashed line = SSB; continuous line = production (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007).

Increase in mesh size of trawlers
Overall, a moderate increase in the trawl mesh size (from 10 to 30 % of the existing mesh) does not seem, in the long run, to have a significant impact on production (Figure 32). On the contrary, a further increase of mesh size would result in significant decreases in production. Moreover, expected gains in spawning biomass remain very low and do not exceed 3% of the virgin biomass with an increase of 30% of the current mesh (Figure 32).


Figure 32. Variations of sustainable production and spawning biomass as a function of the size at first capture of M. kerathurus in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia. Dashed line = SSB; continuous line = production (Ben Meriem and Guirah, 2007).

Fisheries
In the MedSudMed region the most important M. kerathurus fisheries are located in the Gulf of Gabès. In this region, the caramota is caught by two fleet segments: artisanal and trawl fleet. Artisanal fishing is commonly known as coastal fishing using trammel nets with mesh sizes in the central part of 40 to 48 mm (stretched); and trawl fisheries using shrimp trawl gear (modified Mexican trawlers) with a mesh size of 36 mm at the codend. According to Ben Meriem and Gharbi (1988), shrimp is about 20% by weight and 65% by value of the landings of trawlers, being the main target species, while it does not exceed 2% (by weight) for coastal fisheries. A large number of fish species (especially sparidae) and cephalopods (mainly squid) forms the by-catch of the caramota fisheries. Fisheries in Sicily (Italy) and Libya (west coast) of this species are mainly conducted by gill and trammel nets (Vitale et al., 2010).
A test on the restocking trial of caramote prawns was carried out in the southwestern Sicilian coast from wild breeders. No significant effects were recorded. The number of specimens released was probably too low to allow for a lasting effect on the population; probably a higher number of nauplii must be released for a long period (over several years) to have an impact on the standing stock and fisheries in the area (Vitale et al., 2013).

Fishing zones and seasons
The most important M. kerathurus fisheries extend along the northern Mediterranean coast (FAO, 1987), in particular on west coast of Italy and Greece (Amvrakikos Gulf) and the northern Aegean Sea (Conides et al, 1990; Lumare and Scordella, 2001). The main fishing grounds in the southern Mediterranean are in the Gulf of Gabès, although other important fishing areas occur in western Libya. The majority of fisheries for this species are located in the coastal zone, generally not exceeding 50m depth. This species can be fished throughout the year but most is captured in spring-summer and feasibly also in autumn (Vitale et al., 2010).

Yeld
Statistics on caramote production in the Mediterranean are fragmented over space and in time. According to FAO statistics, catches in the Mediterranean are as follows: 3,785 tonnes Tunisia, 1,459 tonnes Greece, 50 tonnes Spain, 18 tonnes Albania (FAO, 2000). More recently (FAO, 2008) indicates that catches of this species in 2006 reached 3,263 tonnes Greece, 2303 tonnes Tunisia, 546 tonnes Italy, 202 tonnes Spain, 102 tonnes Albania, and 1 ton France.
For the MedSudMed area, Tunisia captures a greater quantitiy of this species, fisheries are essentially carried out in the Gulf of Gabès (southern Tunisia).
Production of shellfish in the Gulf of Gabès area has fluctuated but the general trend over the last three decades is increasing (Figure 33).


Figure 33. Evolution of reported shrimp capture production in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia (DGPA, 2011).

In Tunisia, crustaceans were exclusively represented by caramote (M. kerathurus) during the 1980s and until the mid-1990s. White shrimp, Metapenaeus monoceros (lessepsian species) appeared in the catches of crustaceans in the Gulf for the first time in 1995. In the following decade, during which statistics began for shrimp fisheries, an increase was demonstrated and it contributed to approximately 37% of crustaceans caught in the Gulf of Gabès (Figure 34).


Figure 34. Changes of the specific composition of crustacean catches in the Gulf of Gabès area (DGPA, 2011).

Caramote is also caught in other regions of Tunisia, from north to south and, particularly, in the Gulf of Tunis. In this Gulf the amount of caramota caught remains very low, from a few dozen pounds to a few tons. This species is also caught in Libya but landings are weak and knowledge is poor (Daw, pers. comm.).

Fishing and discards
Fishing for caramota is carried out by the traditional Mediterranean-type bottom trawl with low vertical opening. This activity has grown substantially in Tunisia, in the Gulf of Gabès. In other parts of the fishing sector, there are smaller vessels using trammel and gill nets which operate in Tunisia, Libya and Italy (Sicily). To our knowledge, all catches are landed and marketed, discards are almost null.

Legislation and management
In Tunisia shrimp fishing activities are regulated by seasonal and spatial closure of fisheries. The seasonal fishing closure was introduced for the first time in 1951. Since then, several changes have followed concerning the delimitation of fishing zones, opening and closing dates of the season and so forth, in order to ensure a good yield, to safeguard certain areas and to avoid the capture of juveniles. In general, in the Gulf of Gabès, trawlers are subject to special spatial regulations, trawling is banned at depths below 50 m.
The first law of 1951 regulating shrimp fisheries in the Gulf of Gabès (Article 17 of the Decree of the Director of Public Works) authorises trawling in this area for shrimp between the 20 m isobath and the North-South meridian buoy No. 8, during the period from April 1st to September 30th of each year.
Three years later a new decree dated 02.17.1954, amended the old law as follows:

  • The fishing season was set in two phases, the first starting from May 1st to September 30th, the second from December 1st to late February.

  • The number of trawlers authorised to fish was reduced to 7 units of a total of 9 units.

In 1956, an amended Decree of the Ministry of the Economy (May 31st 1956) authorised shrimp fishery in the three pits (Chaffar, Skhira and Zarrat) and set a limit to the engine power of trawlers to 110 hp for the first time, each owner can only fit out one trawler for this type of fishing operation.
The Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture of 26th May 1973, assigned the annual organization of shrimp fishery in the Gulf to the Director of Fisheries. This decree was issued following the progressive and significant increase in the number of trawlers, and fixed the fishing period from 20th May to 31st August, moreover only trawlers with an engine power of 220 hp can participate.
Several orders and circulars came followed the amendment in 1973 modifying the period, the fishing areas and regulating the engine power of the vessels exploiting these new areas.

In 1974, the fishing season was split into two phases, the first from June 1st to August 31st and a second from September 15th to December 31st for this fishery in the following areas:

  • The Gulf area which includes the three pits: Mahrès, Skhira and Zarrat;

  • Zone of buoys n. 6, 7 and 8. Trawlers operating in the area should not have engine power in excess of 250 hp.

The 1975 Act amended the fishing periods and arranged for two seasons: a first period from 12th May to 15th August and from June 9th to August 15th for the Zarrat pit, and the second period from 15th September to 31st December. The engine power of trawlers allowed to fish in the Fora Mustpha was increased to 300 hp.

The decree of 16th April 1977 defined the following three fishing zones:

  • Zone A: the fishing season in this area is scheduled from May 25th to August 15th each year. However, in the Zarrat pit, fishing is only permitted from June 15th of each year. Only trawlers with an engine power less than 220 hp are allowed to fish there.

  • Zone B: including the area of buoys n. 6, 7 and 8 over a depth of 35m. This zone is operational during the same period and with the same trawler categories as zone A.

  • Zone C: is the area of the Fora Mustapha pit over a depth of 40m. Trawling is allowed only in this area (Fora Mustapha) during the period of 15th October to 15th December and for all trawlers.

Trawling in the Zarrat pit has not been allowed since the end of 1982, this because of the fragility of this nursery area for fish and shrimp species. As part of this same step, the closure of the Skhira pit also took place in 1984.
The orders of 20th June 1992 and 28th September 1995 allowed shrimp fishery in a single three-month period from November 1st to January 31st. The permitted fishing zone covers the seabeds above 30m and is located west of the meridian passing through buoy n. 6 and north of latitude 33° 55' N. Vessels whose power exceeds 500 hp cannot participate in the fishery in the Fora Mustapha area beyond the 40m isobath.
The Ministerial Decree of 3rd June 1997 changed the organization of shrimp fisheries once more, spreading it over the period from June 1st to July 31st with the possibility of bringing the season forward by 15 days, and a second from 16th October to 15th November with possibility of extending this phase until November 30th. Moreover, the minimum depth allowed for trawl fisheries was set at 30 m.
The current regulations (Ministerial Decree of 19 December 2001) authorise caramota fisheries using towed nets beyond 30m in the Gulf of Gabes during two periods in the year, the first is a month and a half (from 15th May to 30th June) and the second of the same duration from 16th October to 30th November.
No specific regulations for caramote fisheries are in force for Italy and Malta and catch processes are regulated by the EU reg. 1967/2006 and other European and national rules on fisheries.

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