Do Precautionary Limits On Forage Harvest Benefit Predatory Species? - The Fisherman

Do Precautionary Limits On Forage Harvest Benefit Predatory Species?

A newly released study shared by the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS) has found that extra-precautionary management of forage fish is unlikely to bring additional benefits for many predator species.  How to manage forage fish sustainably, both by themselves and for the rest of the ecosystem, has become a much-discussed topic in fisheries management, with regulators of several forage fisheries beginning to adopt precautionary strategies on the premise that they will better provide for the needs of predator species including seabirds, marine mammals, and fish.

Compiled by Chris Free of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Olaf Jensen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington, the study examines decades of historical abundance data of both forage species and their predators, and uses mathematical models to determine to what extent predator populations benefited from increasing abundance of their forage fish prey. Of the 45 predator populations examined, only six (13%) were positively influenced by extra forage.

“Our work suggests that the sustainable limits that we already employ are sufficient for maintaining forage fish abundance above the thresholds that are necessary for their predators,” said Dr. Free. “Predators are highly mobile, they have high diet flexibility, and they can go and look for forage fish in places where they’re doing well, switch species for species that are doing well, and have often evolved to breed in places where there’s high and stable forage fish abundance.”

As reported through The Fishing Wire.

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