MEPS 369:257-266 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07601

Darwinian fisheries science needs to consider realistic fishing pressures over evolutionary time scales

Christopher J. Brown1,5,*, Alistair J. Hobday1,2, Philippe E. Ziegler3, Dirk C. Welsford4

1School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart 7000, Australia
2CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Castray Esplanade, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
3Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia
4Australian Antarctic Division, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
5Present address: School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia

ABSTRACT: The apparently intense selective differentials imposed by many fisheries may drive the rapid evolution of growth rates. In a widely-cited laboratory experiment, Conover & Munch (2002; Science 297:94–96) found considerable evolutionary change in the size of harvested fish over 4 generations. Their empirical model has since been used to estimate the impact of fishery-driven evolution on fishery sustainability. Using a mathematical, individual-based model (IBM) that simulates that experiment, we showed that the selection imposed in the Conover & Munch (2002) model is unrealistically strong when compared to harvest rates in wild fisheries. We inferred the evolutionary change that could be expected over the timescale used by Conover & Munch (2002), had they simulated more realistic harvest regimes, and found that the magnitude in their original experiment was 2.5 to 5 times greater. However, over evolutionary timescales of 30 generations and with realistic fishing pressure, the results of Conover & Munch (2002) are comparable to wild fisheries. This simulation result provides support for the use of empirical models to predict the impacts of fishery-driven evolution on yields and sustainability. Future models should consider the timing of fishing events, the trade-off between size, maturation and growth, and density-dependent effects for a comprehensive analysis of the consequences of fishery-driven evolution.


KEY WORDS: Fishery-driven evolution · Evolution · Fisheries · Heritability · Life history · Selection · Individual-based model


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Cite this article as: Brown CJ, Hobday AJ, Ziegler PE, Welsford DC (2008) Darwinian fisheries science needs to consider realistic fishing pressures over evolutionary time scales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 369:257-266. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07601

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