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Industrial fishing threatens sharks, dolphins, billfish

y. "You fish in different ways, you have different effects."

In the Pacific, tuna populations - the intended and preferred catch of commercial fishing outfits from Japan, the U.S. Mexico and other Pacific nations - are in generally good shape, Hinke notes. Because these fish tend to mature and reproduce at much earlier ages than the non-target species like sharks and dolphins, their populations are able to withstand relatively heavy fishing pressure. However, increased fishing pressure would very likely cause strong declines, especially for the already very heavily fished yellowfin tuna stocks.

Other animals at that top of the ocean ecosystem heap are a different story. "Yellowfin tuna have a life span of only five years," Hinke says. "They have really fast growth rates and they can begin to reproduce early in life. A shark, on the other hand, can live 20 or 30 years and may not reproduce until it reaches 10 years of age. Sharks also produce relatively few offspring as opposed to a tuna which will spawn sometimes every day for a year and produce millions and millions of eggs."

The models being developed by Hinke and his colleagues at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis also are meant to forecast how fish populations of all kinds will respond to different fishing scenarios. Ratcheting up fishing pressure, according to model simulations, may cause as much as a 20-50 percent decline in populations of dolphins, sharks and billfishes like marlin, sailfish and swordfish.

"The models are part of the toolbox for managers, and they have proven to be effective," Hinke says. "We can model at a level now that permits us to tell how some of these animals might respond to different levels of pressure."


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Contact: Jefferson Hinke
jthinke@facstaff.wisc.edu
608-262-3088
University of Wisconsin-Madison
5-Aug-2002


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