Fisheries conservation on the high seas

paper8Published online on 13. January 2016

Fisheries conservation on the high seas: linking conservation physiology and fisheries ecology for the management of large pelagic fishes

Andrij Z. Horodysky, Steven J. Cooke, John E. Graves, Richard W. Brill


Populations of tunas, billfishes and pelagic sharks are fished at or over capacity in many regions of the world. They are captured by directed commercial and recreational fisheries (the latter of which often promote catch and release) or as incidental catch or bycatch in commercial fisheries. Population assessments of pelagic fishes typically incorporate catch-per-unit-effort time-series data from commercial and recreational fisheries; however, there have been notable changes in target species, areas fished and depth-specific gear deployments over the years that may have affected catchability. Some regional fisheries management organizations take into account the effects of time- and area-specific changes in the behaviours of fish and fishers, as well as fishing gear, to standardize catch-per-unit-effort indices and refine population estimates. However, estimates of changes in stock size over time may be very sensitive to underlying assumptions of the effects of oceanographic conditions and prey distribution on the horizontal and vertical movement patterns and distribution of pelagic fishes. Effective management and successful conservation of pelagic fishes requires a mechanistic understanding of their physiological and behavioural responses to environmental variability, potential for interaction with commercial and recreational fishing gear, and the capture process. The interdisciplinary field of conservation physiology can provide insights into pelagic fish demography and ecology (including environmental relationships and interspecific interactions) by uniting the complementary expertise and skills of fish physiologists and fisheries scientists. The iterative testing by one discipline of hypotheses generated by the other can span the fundamental–applied science continuum, leading to the development of robust insights supporting informed management. The resulting species-specific understanding of physiological abilities and tolerances can help to improve stock assessments, develop effective bycatch-reduction strategies, predict rates of post-release mortality, and forecast the population effects of environmental change. In this synthesis, we review several examples of these interdisciplinary collaborations that currently benefit pelagic fisheries management.

Conserv Physiol (2016) 4 (1): cov059 doi:10.1093/conphys/cov059



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