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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 484:155-171 (2013)  -  DOI:

Why the size structure of marine communities can require decades to recover from fishing

Tak Fung1,*, Keith D. Farnsworth1, Samuel Shephard2, David G. Reid3, Axel G. Rossberg1,4 

1Queen’s University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK
2Marine and Freshwater Research Centre, Department of Life Sciences, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland
3Marine Institute, Fisheries Science Services, Rinville, Oranmore, Galway, Ireland
4Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, UK

ABSTRACT: A dynamic food-web model of more than 1000 species was used to quantify the recovery trajectory of marine community size-structure under different hypothetical fishing regimes, using the Northeast Atlantic as an example. Size-structure was summarised by 4 indicators: the Large Fish Indicator (LFI), the Large Species Indicator (LSI), the biomass-weighted mean maximum length of fish species (Lmax) and the biomass-weighted mean maturation length of fish species (Lmat). Time-series of these indicators recorded recovery following release from fishing with various size-selectivities, intensities and durations. In model simulations, fishing-induced trophic cascades were observed to distort fish community size-structure, but these did not have a large influence on recovery level or duration as measured by the 4 indicators. However, simulations showed that local extinctions of large fish species increased in number with both fishing intensity and duration, and could strongly limit the recovery level. Recovery of fish community size-structure to near equilibrium frequently took multiple decades in simulations; these long transient periods suggest that management interventions for size-structure recovery may require much longer than previously thought. Our results demonstrate the need for community-level modelling to set realistic targets for management of community size-structure.

KEY WORDS: Ecosystem approach to fisheries management · Food-web · Resilience · Dynamic model · Fisheries indicators · Extinction · Species richness

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Cite this article as: Fung T, Farnsworth KD, Shephard S, Reid DG, Rossberg AG (2013) Why the size structure of marine communities can require decades to recover from fishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 484:155-171.

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