MEPS - Vol. 333 - Feature article

Serial exploitation of the highly vulnerable fishes of seamounts (e.g. alfonsino Beryx decadactylus) does not appear to be sustainable. Photo from Ross et al. (2004)

Cheung WWL, Watson R, Morato T, Pitcher TJ, Pauly D

 

Intrinsic vulnerability in the global fish catch

 

The capacity of fish populations to withstand fishing mortality depends on the life history traits that they have evolved. Based on such traits, Cheung and co-workers calculated an index of intrinsic vulnerability. They found that demersal fishes occupying deeper water or associated with seamounts have higher vulnerability to fishing. Average vulnerability of taxa in the global catch has declined consistently since 1950, and this decline is strongest in coral reef fishes. This indicates that fish communities experience increasing dominance of less vulnerable species, following over-exploitation of more vulnerable ones. The opposite trend was observed for seamounts, which suggests serial exploitation of highly vulnerable fishes in the deep sea. The results highlight areas and fish communities which should receive conservation attention.

 

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