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The role of the behavioural interactions between fish and fishers on fisheries sustainability

Final Report Summary - FISH&FISHERS (The role of the behavioural interactions between fish and fishers on fisheries sustainability)

Harvesting of coastal fish is often intensive and selective with respect to certain phenotypes that determine the probability of capture, for example body size. Indeed, most research on human-induced selection has focused on size-based traits, but selection acting on the behavior of fish has recently been proposed to be as or even more relevant than selection acting on body size. The Fish&Fishers project has established the fitness consequences of individual heterogeneity in relation to behavioral traits using a comprehensive mathematical (modelling) and empirical approach concluding that the behavior of fish and fishers plays an important role determining vulnerability to capture, catchability and in turn fisheries sustainability. Two major findings of the present project support this idea: i) the survival of fish– a strong component of individual fitness in an exploited situation – depends on the behavior of the individual fish and the behavior of fishers, and exploitation generates selection gradients on behavioral traits, and ii), this selection process is part of a “timidity” syndrome observed in exploited populations, which in turn induces a change in the behavior and search pattern of the fishers affecting exploitation rates and population dynamics. The behavioral-based interplay between fish (prey) and fishers (predators) identified in the Fish &Fishers project provides a compressive description of a fishery system’s dynamics and provides evidence that the variability in human behaviour can be an important driver of human-induced selection of behavioural traits of fish.
The Fish&Fishers project has bridged some of the gaps between behavioral ecology and fisheries science by providing a behaviorally-related mechanism relating fisheries selection of behavior and the population-level catchability coefficient, which is a classical fisheries concept that relates how much of the stock can be removed per unit of effort. The findings found suggest that the catchability is a moving target and may strongly decline even within a given season, which reinforces the idea that hyper-depletion of catch rates may be an expected result and that fisheries-induced change in abundance and behavior has predictable consequences for fisheries profitability. Moreover, the selection process operating on behavior collectively affects foraging contributing to the downsizing of adults and should modify predator-prey relationships, with unknown consequences for the ecosystems. Considering the magnitude by which many freshwater and marine stocks are being exploited for food consumption and recreational purposes worldwide, we propose that the selective exploitation on behavioral traits may be widespread.
These conclusions of the present project can be directly linked to fisheries management. Indeed, the project results relate to several European Policies, including the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy (EUBS), the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD2008/56/EC) and the European Water Framework Directive (WFD 2000/60/EC).
The Fish&Fishers project has benefited from a novel methodological approach using novel data-acquisition methods and statistical approaches, but also from the optimal work environment created by the host institution (Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries) and the host group (Prof. Dr. Robert Arlinghaus).The Marie-Curie Fellow was integrated in the young Research Group on the Social-Ecology of Stocking (Besatzfisch Programme, and in a large research project funded by the German Excellence Initiative called BType (Ecological Consequences of Fish Behavioural Types) led or co-led by Prof. Dr. Robert Arlinghaus (Scientist in charge). The integration of the Marie Curie fellow in these active research groups facilitated a range of training and mentoring activities. For example, the fellow became a leading contributor to the Princeton-Humboldt Centre for the Reality Mining of Animal-Human-Systems and took an active role in the development of this ongoing collaboration. The Marie-Curie Fellow not only has benefited from the different collaborations within the host institution, but also from the numerous widely recognized network of the scientist in charge including exposure and regular interaction with Dr. Prof Simon A. Levin (Princeton University), Dr. S. Matsamura (Gifu University), Dr. Jeff Hutchings (Dalhousie University), Dr. Christian Jörgensen (Bergen University) or Dr. Dirk Brockamnn (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). The project have played a key role in developing future research questions in the field of fisheries science generating strong European added value, contributing to the transfer of knowledge and enhancing European Research Excellence.

Project Website:

Scientist in charge:
Prof. Dr. Robert Arlinghaus
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes
Müggelseedamm 310
12587 Berlin
Division of Integrative Fisheries Management
Faculty of Life Sciences
Albrecht-Daniel-Thaer-Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Science of fisheries sustainability:
Skype: robertarlinghaus


Marie-Curie Fellow:
Dr. Josep Alós
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes
Müggelseedamm 310
12587 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 641 81 612
Fax: +49 (0)30 641 81 750
Grup de Recerca d’Ecologia de Macròfits Marins, Departament de Recursos Naturals
Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB)
C/ Miquel Marquès, 21, 07190 Esporles, Illes Balears, Spain
Tel.: +34 971 61 17 16 Fax: +34 971 61 17 61

Editorial Advisor of Fisheries Research: