TitleFisheries Sustainability via protection of age structure and spatial distribution of fish populations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsBerkeley, SA, Hixon, MA, Larson, RJ, Love, MS
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Numerous groundfish stocks in both the Atlantic and Pacific are considered overfished, resulting in large-scale fishery closures. Fishing, in addition to simply removing biomass, also truncates the age and size structure of fish populations and often results in localized depletions. We summarize recent research suggesting that an old-growth age structure, combined with a broad spatial distribution of spawning and recruitment, is at least as important as spawning biomass in maintaining long-term sustainable population levels. In particular, there is evidence that older, larger female rockfishes produce larvae that withstand starvation longer and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish, that stocks may actually consist of several reproductively isolated units, and that recruitment may come from only a small and different fraction of the spawning population each year. None of these phenomena is accounted for in current management programs. We examine alternative management measures that address these specific issues and conclude that the best and perhaps only way to ensure old-growth age structure and complex spatial structure in populations of groundfish is through interconnected networks of marine reserves.

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