Analysis of population structure and behaviour of a semi-enclosed and theoretically non-fished population of the echinoid Paracentrotus lividus at Lough Hyne marine nature reserve,Co. Cork, Ireland, showed distinct variability. Aspects of the behavioural variability in this species have significant consequences for the natural fishery harvest potential of this species.Whether or not, when and where individuals migrate to the upper surfaces of rocks varies on a local and regional scale as well as seasonally. The effect of this is apparent changes in (a) the population structure, (b) the population size and (c) the population centres of abundance. The population structure and size of the Lough Hyne population has changed substantially, as have those on a larger spatial scale, although the causative agents are debatable. Such changes are the result of large-scale mortality of adults and failure of cohort recruitment. Despite the undeniable pressures of overfishing at many localities, it seems likely there is a strong ‘natural’ and possibly predictable element to the variability in P. lividus population size and structure. For the restoration and sustainable harvest of Irish P. lividus aspects of its behavioural ecology need to be taken more closely into consideration.
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