Ecosystem overviews

Azores Ecosystem Overview

State of the ecosystem components: Fish

​​​​​About 460 fish species, belonging to 142 families, have been recorded in the Azores ecoregion (Santos et al., 1997). Major small pelagic species from the Azores are Trachurus picturatus, Scomber japonicus, Sardina pilchardus, and Boops boops (Isidro and Carvalho, 2005). Large pelagic species are mainly represented by tunas and tuna-like species such as bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), and albacore (Thunnus alalunga). Other species include the pelagic oceanic sharks and rays; shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), blue shark (Prionace glauca), bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus), smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), giant manta (Mobula birostris), and sicklefin devil ray (Mobula tarapacana).

The demersal fish community from the Azores is diverse and is mainly structured by depth zones (Menezes et al., 2006; Pinho and Menezes, 2009; Santos et al., 2019b):

  • Shallow-shelf/shelf-break at depths < 200 m: typified by red porgy (Pagrus pagrus), tope (Galeorhinus galeus), thornback ray (Raja clavata), and forkbeard (Phycis phycis)
  • Upper-slope at 200–600 m: characterized by blackspot seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo), European conger (Conger conger), offshore rockfish (Pontinus kuhlii), alfonsinos (Beryx splendens and B. decadactylus), bluemouth rockfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus), and velvet belly (Etmopterus spinax)
  • Mid-slope at 600–800 m: typified by smooth lanternshark (Etmopterus pusillus) and arrowhead dogfish (Deania profundorum)
  • Deep mid-slope at 800–1200 m: characterized by common mora (Mora moro), leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus), birdbeak dogfish (Deania calcea), and gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus)

Trends in fishing pressure and stock size are presented in the “Selective extraction of species" section of the document. The state of fish stocks in the ecoregion is generally unknown, owing to the lack of analytical assessments. Stocks have broader distributions than just the ecoregion itself and are thus affected by pressures over a wider area.

​A range of deep-sea species and some small pelagics are fished in this ecoregion (Figures 3 and 5), but ICES cannot provide quantitative estimates of stock status for those. There are many species of deep-water sharks in the ecoregion, some of which (e.g. Portuguese dogfish and leaf-scale gulper shark) are considered severely depleted. Spawning‑stock biomasses of bluefin tuna and swordfish have increased in recent years, and neither are considered to be overfished. Amongst the pelagic shark species occurring in the ecoregion, three are considered more significant and vulnerable to fishing: blue shark (Prionace glauca), shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), and porbeagle (Lamna nasus). Porbeagle is considered to be severely depleted. Blue shark and mako are considered fully exploited or overfished (ICCAT, 2018).​​

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Azores Ecosystem Overview

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