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Early-warning system to prevent fishery collapse discovered

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Posted September 17, 2013

Threats from overfishing can be detected early enough to save fisheries— and livelihoods —with minimal adjustments in harvesting practices, a new study by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences shows.

The work indicates that a healthy fishery can be maintained the way a skillful captain steers an oil tanker: by small course corrections that prevent disaster far ahead.

The study, by Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB) graduate student Matt Burgess and co-advisors Stephen Polasky (EEB and Applied Economics in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) and David Tilman (EEB), was published on September 16 in the the Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Specifically, the work demonstrates how extinction and overfishing threats from multispecies fisheries can be identified decades before valuable species are over-harvested and populations decline.

Most of the world’s large fisheries use nets or lines with multiple hooks, which catch multiple species simultaneously and have serious ecological consequences. Past population declines and current increases in harvest rates can be used to assess current threats of overfishing and extinction, but this approach doesn’t apply to future threats. By predicting future threats, the researchers’ new method would enable conservation measures to prevent overfishing and extinction.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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