Today, fishing is the dominant source of mortality in most commercially exploited fish stocks. According to the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization, world capture fisheries have reached a ceiling, with three stocks out of four being maximally exploited or overexploited. Since all fish species were genetically adapted to the environmental conditions experienced prior to intensive exploitation, the current, drastically altered conditions cannot possibly leave their life-history patterns unaffected. In other words, fishing not only decreases the abundance of fish, but also changes their genetic composition. These evolutionary dimensions of fisheries have been overlooked for decades, so that fisheries scientists and managers are just now awakening to the formidable risks posed by further unmanaged fisheries-induced evolution.
The European Research Training Network FishACE is set up to investigate the prevalence and consequences of fisheries-induced adaptive changes in exploited aquatic systems in European waters. This objective necessitates development and application of novel methodological tools for investigating empirical data, together with careful construction of theoretical models suitable for complementing empirical analyses and evaluating managerial options. At the same time, FishACE will provide advance training for a new generation of scientists that will be ready to tackle the challenges posed by evolutionary changes in exploited resources. Strategically, this Research Training Network will maintain and extend the leading position of European research in the application of evolutionary theory to exploited ecosystems.
This proposal aims at a close integration of empirical and theoretical lines of development in our understanding of evolutionary processes in exploited populations, thus providing the scientific basis required for designing policies and implementing management measures to cope with fisheries-induced adaptive changes.
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