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Predicting overfishing and extinction threats in multispecies fisheries
Burgess, M.G.; Polasky, S.; Tilman, D. (2013). Predicting overfishing and extinction threats in multispecies fisheries. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110(40): 15943-15948.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    early warning preventative management overharvesting mechanistic assessment

Authors  Top 
  • Burgess, M.G.
  • Polasky, S.
  • Tilman, D.

    Threats to species from commercial fishing are rarely identified until species have suffered large population declines, by which time remedial actions can have severe economic consequences, such as closure of fisheries. Many of the species most threatened by fishing are caught in multispecies fisheries, which can remain profitable even as populations of some species collapse. Here we show for multispecies fisheries that the biological and socioeconomic conditions that would eventually cause species to be severely depleted or even driven extinct can be identified decades before those species experience high harvest rates or marked population declines. Because fishing effort imposes a common source of mortality on all species in a fishery, the long-term impact of a fishery on a species is predicted by measuring its loss rate relative to that of species that influence the fishery’s maximal effort. We tested our approach on eight Pacific tuna and billfish populations, four of which have been identified recently as in decline and threatened with overfishing. The severe depletion of all four populations could have been predicted in the 1950s, using our approach. Our results demonstrate that species threatened by human harvesting can be identified much earlier, providing time for adjustments in harvesting practices before consequences become severe and fishery closures or other socioeconomically disruptive interventions are required to protect species.

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