Genetic consequences of fisheries and fisheries management

Report from a multi-disciplinary workshop in Rönne, Bornholm, 25–26 October 2006

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This report summarizes talks, discussions and conclusions from a multi-disciplinary workshop on genetic consequences of fisheries and fisheries management held in Rönne, Bornholm in October 2006. The workshop was intended for fishermen, scientists, decision makers, managers and other stakeholders from the Nordic countries. The main objectives were to improve communication between parties involved in fisheries management present current knowledge regarding genetic consequences of fisheries, and highlight the importance of including genetic/biological data in the management of exploited fish species agree upon recommendations on how genetic considerations could be implemented in management and decision making processes.



Evolutionary consequences of fisheries

Exploitation rates on fish stocks have increased considerable during recent decades, and statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that an increasing proportion of the world fish resources are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Fishing induces high mortality, and the harvesting is not random: due to the size-selective fishing practices we employ, we are selectively killing large and fast-growing individuals. Also, fishing mortality is often nonrandom with respect to geographical location. The high and selective mortality induced by fishing has the potential to cause evolutionary changes in several important traits, such as growth rate, maximum length, age and size at maturation, and migration behaviours. These changes can have severe consequences for the exploited stock itself, e.g. reduced recruitment rates, but also on other species in the ecosystem through changed ecological interactions in for example the food web. Fishing has also been found to change the species composition in some ecosystems. Evolutionary changes are likely to affect the profitability due to lower yields and a lower commercial value. Evolutionary changes in life history or behaviour are likely to have consequences for maximum potential population growth rate at low density, and may thus have important consequences for the ability of stocks to recover from overexploitation.


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