For the first time, a research study has shown that fishing can promote relative boom and bust swings in supplies of targeted fish stocks. The study, authored by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (National Marine Fisheries Service), Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, shows that beyond the potential for fishery exploitation to cause systematic declines in targeted fish stocks, fishing carries with it a "double jeopardy" impact by also amplifying the highs and lows of natural population variability. This increases uncertainty in estimating population levels and could put fisheries at greater risk of collapse than previously believed.
For decades, theoretical debates have swirled in scientific circles regarding how much impact—if any—commercial fishing activities held for the fish populations they target. Statistics and recent studies have shown that many commercially important fish populations have been declining over the past several decades, but how much can be traced to fishing rather than environmental influences?
The new study, published in the October 19 issue of the journal Nature, is based on data obtained by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a program that has been investigating the ecological conditions of the California Current for more than half a century. "We found that the temporal variability of the targeted (exploited) populations was much higher, meaning that fishing tends to amplify both the peaks and the valleys of population numbers," said George Sugihara, a coauthor of the paper and a professor in the Physical Oceanography Research Division at Scripps. "Fishing can potentially not only lead to declining stock levels, but we show it actually causes populations to fluctuate more through time, which could put them at greater risk of collapse than we previously thought."
The researchers differentiated between environmental and fishing impacts by analyzing the populations of exploited versus unexploited species living in the same environments. Normally this comparison cannot be made with traditional fisheries data that are based on "landings" records, as there are no landings records for unfished species. The CalCOFI data was unique in this regard because it gathered data on larval abundances of both fished and non-fished species. Larval abundance is a well-known indicator of adult abundance. The study analyzed the quantity of larval fish recorded during systematic CalCOFI research cruises, which focus on the California Current, the large current originating in the northern Pacific Ocean that passes along the western coast of North America.
The authors believe that the reason fished populations become more variable is a consequence of the fact that fishing selectively culls the larger, older individuals, thereby removing the fish that are more able to buffer random environmental variation and add year-to-year continuity to the population. These individuals also tend to be the most reproductively active in their populations. As fishing proceeds, there is a tendency for the size and age of individuals in the population to decline, potentially leaving a stock of near-juveniles that are less able to cope with environmental pulses such as El Niño events.
"This so-called 'age truncation effect' (ATE) suggests that fisheries need to be managed not only to maintain a harvest target or total biomass level, but also to maintain a certain age structure in the stock," said Sugihara, who indicated that the fluctuations they identified tend to precede systematic declines of populations, meaning they can be viewed as a kind of early warning sign prior to collapse. "Instituting practical maximum size limits or encouraging the use of marine reserves to protect the larger individuals are possible solutions."
Beginning in the 1960s and '70s, debates over fishing impacts, which included coauthors John Beddington of Imperial College London and Robert May of the University of Oxford, were largely speculative arguments where some scientists argued that fishing activities would act to stabilize populations (through density-dependent harvesting), while others said that it would increase fluctuations. There were no data at the time to resolve the controversy. Sugihara says the new study, motivated by his student Chih-hao Hsieh's doctoral work, was made possible only through the unique and highly valuable data provided by the CalCOFI program. Data from fisheries are, by definition, plagued with a catch-22 situation in that they can only provide information about fished species and virtually no information about non-fished species. Without data on unexploited species, control comparisons for evaluating fishing effects are not possible.
"Our study points to the foresight of long-term observational programs like CalCOFI and the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, and helps to further justify the public investment in such nationally important programs," said Sugihara.
"The most immediate implication for fisheries management is that beyond the potential for causing a decline in abundance, fishing can provoke greater variability in exploited populations (and therefore reduced resilience) and thereby increase the risk of collapse of a fishery from (random) environmental events," the authors conclude in their study. "Obviously, this risk increases if fishing results in both higher variability and declining populations. That these two undesirable consequences of fishing can occur together represents double jeopardy and should be of concern to fisheries managers." In addition to Hsieh, Beddington, May and Sugihara, the study was coauthored by John Hunter of Scripps Oceanography and Christian Reiss of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.
The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the Environment (FATE), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Science Foundation/LTER California Current Ecosystem "Nonlinear Transitions in the California Current Coastal Pelagic Ecosystem," the Deutsche Bank Complexity Studies Fund and the Sugihara Family Trust.
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.
Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
14.08.2018 | Information Technology
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences