CORDIS - EU research results

Fisheries-induced Evolution

Final Report Summary - FINE (Fisheries-induced Evolution)

Fishing is the dominant source of mortality in fish stocks, and, due to the pressure it applies on their population, decreases the abundance of animals and changes their genetic composition. Based on these observations, the FINE project investigated the prevalence and consequences of fisheries-induced evolutionary changes in life history traits of exploited fish stocks in European and North American waters.

The project combined expertise from various fields, such as population and quantitative genetics, life history and evolutionary theory, population dynamics and fisheries science. In addition, FINE achieved a close combination of empirical and theoretical perspectives on evolutionary processes in fish stocks.

Numerous methodologies, originating from different science sectors, were utilised and two integrated case studies were examined to accomplish the project objectives which were to:
1. conduct phenotypic analyses to document trends in life history traits, including maturation, reproductive effort and growth;
2. elaborate genetic analyses to elucidate the genetic basis of induced evolutionary changes;
3. design eco-genetic models to evaluate alternative hypotheses for the interpretation of the observed data;
4. assess the ecological consequences of the imposed evolution for the yield, stability and recovery potential of exploited stocks;
5. develop and compare practical management options.

The elaborated research produced numerous satisfactory results which were disseminated to the public via a large number of publications. Firstly, new evidence, suggestive of the fisheries-induced evolution, was provided and the robustness of the existing detection methods was confirmed. In addition, it was scientifically proven that the observed trends were more apparent in fished lakes rather than in non-fished ones.

The genetic analyses provided the first systematic assembly and screening of historic tissue samples to serve as evidence of the induced evolution. Population sizes in cod and sole were verified, through case studies examination, as being sufficient for the prevention of genetic variability and new methods were developed to detect temporal trends in quantitative traits.

The applied eco-genetic models facilitated the systematic understanding of the response of maturation schedules to covariation in mortality and growth and assisted in an overview of the expected life-history syndromes caused by fishing. Detailed models, based on monitored data, were developed for specific stocks and demonstrated that the induced evolution could delay stock recovery and reduce the economic value of the resource. Finally, management measures were specified in order to optimally mitigate the generated patterns.