Management of Evolving Fish Stocks
Mortality caused by harvesting can select for life history changes in the harvested stock. Should this possibility be taken into account in the management of renewable resources? I compare the performance of different harvest strategies when evolutionary change is accounted for with a help of an age-structured population dynamics model. Assuming that age of first reproduction is the only evolving trait, harvesting of only mature individuals selects for delayed maturation and results in increased sustainable yields. Unselective harvesting of both mature and immature fish selects for earlier maturation which causes the sustainable yield to decrease. Constant stock size and constant harvest rate strategies perform equally well in terms of maximum sustainable yield, both before and after evolutionary change. The maximum sustainable yield for fixed quota strategies is lower. All those strategies have similar evolutionary consequences given a similar average harvest rate. Coevolutionary dynamics between fish stock and the stock manager indicate that the evolutionary benefits of selective harvesting are attainable without incurring yield losses in the near future.
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