Recent studies have found that large, old and oily groundfish are significantly more important than their younger counterparts in maintaining healthy marine fish stocks – the larvae from their eggs better resist starvation and have a much greater chance of survival.
These same big, old fish are also routinely sought by fisherman, scientists say, and the age decline in fish populations helps to explain the collapsing fisheries off the Pacific Northwest coast. Other research also indicated that many fish populations up and down the coast are essentially distinct, and fish from one area don’t intermingle as much as had been assumed with fish from elsewhere. These combined problems might be most effectively addressed with a diverse network of marine protected areas, said scientists at Oregon State University.
The findings were recently summarized in an article in Fisheries, a professional journal. "We’ve known for a long time that bigger fish produce more eggs, that we might need to have numerous smaller females to produce as many eggs as one larger fish," said Mark Hixon, an OSU professor of zoology. "Modern fish management is based on this assumption. But we’ve also assumed that one fish egg is just as good as another, and the newest studies are showing that’s just not the case."
Mark Hixon | EurekAlert!
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