Evolutionary impact assessment of the north sea plaice fishery

Fabian M. Mollet*, Jan Jaap Poos, Ulf Dieckmann, Adriaan D. Rijnsdorp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing evidence that fishing causes evolution in life-history traits that affect the productivity of fish stocks. Here we explore the impact of fisheries-induced evolution (FIE) on the productivity of North Sea plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) using an ecogenetic, individual-based model by comparing management scenarios with and without an evolutionary response. Under status-quo management, plaice evolve towards smaller size at age, earlier maturation, and higher reproductive investment. Current reference points of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and corresponding fishing-mortality rate (FMSY) that ignore FIE will decrease and cannot be considered sustainable. The nature and extent of the change through FIE depend on fishing effort and selectivity. The adverse evolutionary effects can be reduced — and even reversed — by implementing a dome-shaped exploitation pattern protecting the large fish. The evolutionarily sustainable maximum yield can be obtained by combining such a dome-shaped exploitation pattern with a reduction in fishing mortality and an increase in mesh size; it is similar to the MSY that would apply if life-history traits were static. Fisheries managers will need to trade off the short-term loss in yield associated with evolutionarily informed management with the long-term loss in yield FIE causes under evolutionarily uninformed management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1126-1137
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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