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Long-term ocean data confirm fishing puts species in 'double jeopardy'

October 18, 2006 -- For the first time, research has shown that fishing can promote boom and bust swings in supplies of targeted fish stocks.

The results, published in the October 19 issue of the journal Nature, are based on data obtained by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a program through which scientists have investigated the ecological conditions of the California Current for more than half a century.

The study shows that beyond the potential for fishery exploitation to cause declines in fish stocks, fishing carries with it a "double jeopardy" impact by amplifying the highs and lows of natural population variability. This "double jeopardy" increases uncertainty in estimating population levels and could put fisheries at greater risk of collapse than previously believed.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, Imperial College, London, and the University of Oxford. It was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, the Deutsche Bank Complexity Studies Fund and the Sugihara Family Trust.

"This study shows that there is significant value in conducting long-term ecological research in the oceans," said Philip Taylor, director of NSF's Biological Oceanography Program, which, along with NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research Program, funded the research. "There are risks in not taking fish population variability and fish population age structure into account because they impact the resilience of future fish generations. A ton of fish of the very largest sizes has far more value to future populations if preserved than a ton of smaller fish, which contribute far less to reproduction."

Theoretical debates have swi
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
18-Oct-2006


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