Much evidence shows that fishing is driving evolutionary changes in the life traits of marine fish populations. Fishing does not only decrease the abundance of populations, but also changes the genetic composition of their individuals with negative impacts on the recovery capacity, and on the functioning of the ecosystems. Moreover, fishing is removing the largest individuals from many stocks leading the fish populations mainly supported by young age classes (juvenescent populations). However, the evolutionary effects of fisheries targeting young and non mature stages (recruitment fisheries) remain unexplored. This is particularly regrettable since many fisheries continue to target smaller fish as the larger individuals are disappearing. The Mediterranean fisheries show already this scenario, with the European hake (EH, M. merluccius) being the most representative species. The Atlantic populations of EH are overexploited, yet more focused in mature individuals. Fisheries-induced adaptive studies should be based on the population sub-structure. However, to date there is not enough knowledge about connectivity among EH populations exploited in the Mediterranean, though little evidences exit in the Atlantic. In the present study I aim to elucidate the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of the EH populations in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, by focusing on the evolutionary consequences of harvesting non-mature individuals. This proposal establishes a combination of modelling, statistical tools and genetic information. The project will be developed in a top European research centre – Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo – which provides highly expert background in combining genetic and evolution with ecological and climatic information. The expected results will clarify the ecological and evolutionary consequences of recruitment fisheries, and thereby contribute to the sustainable management of our marine resources.
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