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Shopping list gets longer not less choosy in some of world's largest fisheries

shore and does not measure how many fish of various species are actually available.

Using Pauly's method, Essington and UW graduate students Anne Beaudreau and John Wiedenmann, both co-authors on the paper, looked at data between 1950 and 2001. They found the trophic level was shifting downward for landings in 30 of the 48 large marine ecosystems in the world for which they could obtain reliable information. In a little more than two-thirds of those cases 21 of the 30 ecosystems the composition of the catch changed to include fish from lower trophic levels, yet the amount of fish from the higher trophic levels remained the same or increased.

Because the research considered only landings, the scientists can't say if the stocks are plentiful or if the amounts were high for some other reason, such as an increase in the number of boats fishing the area.

In either case, Essington says, "We can't ignore the policy implications of this common mechanism of sequentially adding species to what is being fished."

In the other nine of the 30 ecosystems the researchers found that high-trophic-level fish were, indeed, disappearing and forcing fishermen to turn to fish lower on the food web. The most spectacular example is the ecosystem in the North Atlantic where fishery collapses are common.


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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
14-Feb-2006


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