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Fishing down the food chain revisited: Modeling exploited trophic systems

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  • Wilen, Christopher D.
  • Wilen, James E.

Abstract

Several highly cited papers suggest that commercial fishing is altering marine ecosystems by “fishing down the food chain”. Recent evidence calls into question the generality of the original findings, but the papers all raise the question: what mechanisms lie behind exploitation patterns in a trophic system? This paper develops a simple model that shows how economic factors drive patterns of exploitation in a trophic system. We show that while fishing down the food chain is possible, there is no reason to suppose that the relevant economic factors favor such an outcome. As we show, other patterns are just as plausible. We also discuss and show how an index of trophic level-weighted harvest is not necessarily a good indicator of ecosystem health if biomass abundance is important.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilen, Christopher D. & Wilen, James E., 2012. "Fishing down the food chain revisited: Modeling exploited trophic systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 80-88.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:79:y:2012:i:c:p:80-88
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.04.021
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wilen, James & Brown, Gardner Jr., 1986. "Optimal recovery paths for perturbations of trophic level bioeconomic systems," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 225-234, September.
    2. repec:eee:ecomod:v:209:y:2007:i:2:p:342-350 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. U. Sumaila & A. Marsden & Reg Watson & Daniel Pauly, 2007. "A Global Ex-vessel Fish Price Database: Construction and Applications," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 39-51, April.
    4. Sanchirico, James N. & Wilen, James E., 1999. "Bioeconomics of Spatial Exploitation in a Patchy Environment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 129-150, March.
    5. H. Scott Gordon, 1954. "The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 124-124.
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