Effects of fishing during the spawning period: implications for sustainable management

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While fishery closures during the spawning season are commonplace, direct evidence for their benefit is mainly restricted to species forming large spawning aggregations. This paper analyses the conditions under which spawning closures could contribute to sustainable fisheries management by reviewing how fishing during spawning may affect the physiology, behaviour and ecology of individuals and how this may influence the dynamics and the genetics of the population. We distinguish between the effects of fishing activities in relation to mortality, disturbance of spawning activity, and impact on spawning habitat. Spawning closures may be of benefit it they: (1) reduce the fishing mortality of the large and older spawners; (2) avoid negative effects on spawning habitats; (3) reduce the risk of over-exploitation in species which form large spawning aggregations; (4) reduce the evolutionary effects on maturation and reproductive investment; and (5) reduce the risk of over-exploitation of specific spawning components. The contribution of spawning closures to sustainable fisheries will differ among species and depends on the complexity of the spawning system, the level of aggregation during spawning and the vulnerability of the spawning habitat. The importance of these closures depends on the degree of population depletion but does not cease when populations are ‘healthy’ (i.e. no sign that recruitment is impaired).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-83
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • cod gadus-morhua
  • loligo-vulgaris-reynaudii
  • north-sea plaice
  • halibut hippoglossus-stenolepis
  • palinurus-elephas fabricius
  • pleuronectes-platessa l
  • life-history evolution
  • coral-reef fish
  • atlantic cod
  • closed areas


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