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Fishing throws targeted species off balance, Scripps study shows
Date:4/16/2008

a program based at Scripps that has monitored fish and oceanographic activities of the California Current for more than 50 years. To arrive at their results, the researchers compared the CalCOFI records of larvae, a key indicator of adult populations, of both fished and non-fished species in the California Current.

Fishing typically extracts the older, larger members of a targeted species and fishing regulations often impose minimum size limits to protect the smaller, younger fishes.

That type of regulation, which we see in many sport fisheries, is exactly wrong, said Sugihara. Its not the young ones that should be thrown back, but the larger, older fish that should be spared. Not only do the older fish provide stability and capacitance to the population, they provide more and better quality offspring.

Thus the danger, according to Sugihara, is that current policies that manage according to current biomass targets (without significant forecast skill) while ignoring fish size pose risks that can further destabilize the population. This instability can in principle propagate systemically to the whole ecosystem, much like a stock market crash or a domino effect, and magnify risk for the fishing industry itself as well as those of ecologically related fisheries.

This is especially true when trying to rebuild fish stocks, Sugihara says.

This may be the most important implication of this work, as we attempt to rehabilitate fisheries, said Sugihara. Regulations based solely on biomass harvest targets are incomplete. They must also account for age-size structure in the populations, he said. Current policies and industry pressures that encourage lifting bans on fishing when biomass is rehabilitatedbut where maximum age and size are notcontain risk.

This is currently the case with Atlantic swordfish, for which industry pressures to resume fishing are based on the restoration of historic biomass level
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Contact: Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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