Size-based species interactions shape herring and cod population dynamics in the face of exploitation

P.D. van Denderen, T. van Kooten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Size-specific competition and predation interactions often link the population dynamics of fish species in their response to exploitation. The effects of harvesting on interacting fish species is of increasing relevance as more and more fish populations worldwide are reduced by fishing. When stocks are harvested, effects of harvesting may percolate to populations of other species with which it interacts through competition, predation, etcetera. When multiple species are exploited, this can lead to interactions between fisheries, mediated by ecological interactions. Nevertheless, most fish stocks are managed using a single-species framework. We studied how single-species explanations of historical population dynamics work out when size-based interactions between harvested species are taken into account. We have taken as a case study the dynamics of cod (Gadus morhua) and herring (Clupea harengus) in the North Sea. These dynamics are generally considered to be shaped by fishing pressure on and food availability to single species. Our results indicate that the explanatory power of these factors is maintained with the inclusion of species interactions, but the processes leading to the observed patterns are altered as the fates of the species are interdependent. The sign and magnitude of the interaction between the species depends on the state of the populations, their exploitation history and environmental factors such as resource productivity. This context-dependent response to changing fishery intensity has important ramifications for management. We show that management plans for the exploitation of either one of these species, or for the recovery of North Sea cod, which do not account for these subtle interactions, may fail or backfire. Hence, such interactions link the fate of these species in complex ways, which must be taken into consideration for successful management of their exploitation, including harvesting at maximum sustainable yield, as we move towards an ecosystem-based management of marine fisheries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number130
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • north-sea cod
  • clupea-harengus
  • intraguild predation
  • prey
  • model
  • recruitment
  • recovery
  • biomass
  • management
  • fisheries

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