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Scientists question indicator of fisheries health, evidence for 'fishing down food webs'
Date:11/17/2010

na, skipjack tuna and blue whiting.

"Globally we're catching more of just about everything," Branch said. "Therefore relying on changes in the average trophic level of fish being caught won't tell us when fishing is sustainable or if it is leading to collapse." That's because when harvests of everything increase about equally, the average trophic level of what is caught remains steady. The same is true if everything is overfished to collapse. Both scenarios were modeled as part of the Nature analysis.

"The 1998 paper was tremendously influential in gathering together global data on catches and trophic levels and it warned about fishing impacts on ecosystems," Branch says. "Our new data from trawl surveys and fisheries assessments now tell us that catches weren't enough. In the future we will need to focus our limited resources on tracking trends in species that are especially vulnerable to fishing and developing indicators that reflect fish abundance, biodiversity and marine ecosystem health. Only through such efforts can we reliably assess human impacts on marine ecosystems."

"In this paper we conducted the first large-scale test of whether changes in the average trophic levels of what is caught are a good indicator of ecosystem status," says Beth Fulton, a co-author and ecosystem modeler with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia. "Catch data might be easiest to get, but that doesn't help if what it tells us is wrong. Instead we really need to look directly at what the ecosystems are doing."


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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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Scientists question indicator of fisheries health, evidence for 'fishing down food webs'
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