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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 503:219-233 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10745

Selective exploitation of spatially structured coastal fish populations by recreational anglers may lead to evolutionary downsizing of adults

Josep Alós1,2,*, Miquel Palmer1, Ignacio A. Catalan1, Alexandre Alonso-Fernández3, Gotzon Basterretxea1, Antoni Jordi1, Lucie Buttay4, Beatriz Morales-Nin1, Robert Arlinghaus2,5

1Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB). C/ Miquel Marqués 21, 07190 Esporles, Illes Balears, Spain
2Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany
3Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, IIM (CSIC). C/ Eduardo Cabello 6, 36208 Vigo, Pontevedra, Spain
4Centro Oceanográfico de Gijón, Avda. Príncipe de Asturias, 70 Bis, 33212 Gijón, Spain
5Chair of Integrative Fisheries Management, Faculty of Life Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 42, 10115 Berlin, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: When gene flow is limited and harvesting is intensive, fishing may alter life histories and favour trait combinations that collectively reduce adult body size. However, empirical evidence of downsizing of adults in small-bodied coastal fish is still scarce, in part due to the lack of knowledge about the selective nature of certain fishing gears, such as recreational angling, and the difficulties in estimating the dispersion of pelagic early-life stages. Using the small-bodied sedentary coastal marine fish Serranus scriba as a model, we first empirically show that recreational angling selects for life-history traits (i.e. increased reproductive investment) that promote downsizing of adults. Second, using Lagrangian particle dispersion modelling, we show how local hydrodynamics generates patterns of limited connectivity and the emergence of meta-population structure. Finally, the life histories presently observed in isolated populations of S. scriba that experienced differential fishing pressure matched expectations of fishing-induced downsizing of adult body size. Body size is an important trait in aquatic food webs, and evolutionary downsizing might have unforeseen consequences. From a precautionary perspective, maintaining the meta-population structure and the full range of genotypes inherent in them is important, even for small-bodied, geographically restricted fish species that are mainly harvested by recreational anglers.


KEY WORDS: Body size · Function-valued approach · Life-history traits · Population connectivity · Recreational fishing · Selective fisheries


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Cite this article as: Alós J, Palmer M, Catalan IA, Alonso-Fernández A and others (2014) Selective exploitation of spatially structured coastal fish populations by recreational anglers may lead to evolutionary downsizing of adults. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 503:219-233. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10745

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