CORDIS - EU research results

Fisheries-induced adaptive changes in exploited stocks

Final Activity Report Summary - FISHACE (Fisheries-Induced Adaptive Changes in Exploited Stocks)

The past few years witnessed a growing awareness that fishing might induce evolutionary changes in exploited stocks. With fishing mortalities sometimes exceeding natural mortalities by as much as 400 %, adaptive responses to the altered selective environment caused by fishing were inevitable.

The European Research Training Network on 'Fisheries-induced adaptive changes in exploited stocks' (FISHACE) investigated the prevalence and consequence of fisheries-induced evolutions in exploited aquatic systems across European waters. This objective implied the development and application of novel methodological tools for empirical data investigation, along with devising a new class of the so-called eco-genetic models, suitable for closely complementing empirical analyses and evaluating management options. At the same time, the network provided advance training opportunities for a new generation of scientists who were educated to tackle the challenges posed by evolutionary changes in exploited resources.

Case studies enabled through FISHACE provided empirical evidence for the occurrence of exploitation-induced evolution in Icelandic cod, Baltic cod, North Sea sole and North Sea plaice, as well as in Pacific cupped oysters cultivated along the European Atlantic coast. Model analyses carried out by the programme partners showed that that many life-history traits should be expected to be affected by fisheries-induced evolution, including maturation schedules, growth rates and reproductive investments. Moreover, it was demonstrated that these changes affected fisheries yield, evolutionary recovery would typically be slow and fisheries-induced evolution might cause cascading problems in food webs. Through pioneering the approach of Evolutionary impact assessment (EVOIA), the FISHACE research programme also explored alternative management options for avoiding or ameliorating the impacts of fisheries-induced evolution. It was found that, apart from opportunities related to a general reduction of fishing mortalities and the implementation of marine reserves, the costs of fisheries-induced evolution could also be reduced by a judicious choice of fishing gears accompanied by careful tuning of the size selectivity with which these gears extracted fish from the oceans.