The Evolutionary Effects of Fishing: Implications for Stock Management and Rebuilding

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Virginia Tech

Recent empirical studies have demonstrated inter-generational morphological and life-history changes in fish stocks that have been impacted by size-selective harvest. Evolutionary processes in biological populations occur through differential survival and reproductive success based, in part, upon individual phenotypic variability. Fishing is a source of directional selection resulting in the directed removal of some phenotypes; however, many aspects of the evolutionary effects of fishing remain have yet to be described. In order to better understand the life-history and morphological changes that occur as a result of size-selective fishing, and their effect on fishery dynamics, I first determined the suitability of Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) for selection experiments. I performed selection experiments using Japanese medaka and report how morphology and life-history characteristics changed over multiple generations of selection. I then used these patterns of change in life-history and morphology to validate individual-based simulation candidate models to test general mechanisms of life-history relationships. Finally, I applied the individual-based simulation modeling approach in order to describe how biological and fishery characteristics change in a large, age-structured population exposed to size-selective fishing over multiple generations. I found that the Japanese medaka has attractive characteristics for biological investigation. The selection experiments indicated large changes in the age-atmaturity, including a nearly 50% decrease over four generations in the most intense sizeselective removal regimes. However, I did not observe significant changes in length-at-age or weight-at-age over the course of the experiment. Candidate simulation models were poor at predicting some aspects of the life-history characteristics of Japanese medaka. The simulation model to determine fishery characteristics predicted large decreases in yield and egg production as a result of decreases in length-at-age. Understanding the relationships of life-history characteristics and their role in determining population resilience is a step toward understanding the importance of evolutionary processes in fishery management.

Japanese medaka, Oryzias latipes, aquaculture, life-history evolution, quantitative genetics, heritability, individual-based model, fishery-induced evolution