In their New York Sea Grant-funded research, Conover and Munch, posit that fishery management plans ignore the potential for evolutionary change in harvestable populations such as commercially important fish species. They have been able to observe such evolutionary trends in experimental fish populations.
Using the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), a small common marine fish, Conover found that in populations where large individuals were selectively removed, the average size of the silversides declined dramatically in just four generations. Conversely, when the smaller individuals were selected out, the average size increased.
The authors believe that fish harvesting has impacts that go beyond the immediate ecological response to changes in fish abundance. "Our study illustrates how well-intentioned management plans that appear to maximize yield on ecological time scales may have the opposite effect after accounting for evolutionary dynamics," reports Conover. Fishing may have evolutionary impacts that lead to genetic changes in the population that affect the growth rates of fish and ultimately the productivity of harvested populations.
Managing fisheries is a challenging balancing act between sustaining fish stocks worldwide and the importance of fishing to the global economy.
"In New York State alone," says Jack Mattice, Director of New York Sea Grant, "the commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and t
Contact: Ben Sherman
National Sea Grant College Program