Move and you’re dead: commercial trawl fisheries select for fish that don’t move far

Recent research on harvest-induced evolution of behaviour in (especially aquatic) animals has focused on the shy-bold axis, but foraging and dispersal behaviour have received little attention. Here, we consider the selective effect of systematically localised trawl harvesting from a wild population of mobile animals that vary phenotypically in their range of movement (resulting in a continuum between wide-ranging and sedentary behaviours). We use a spatially explicit individual-based model of an empirically-based demersal fish population and trawl fishing in a realistic seascape. We test whether a sustained spatially concentrated pattern of fishing can select for or against wide-ranging vs. more sedentary behaviour as the fish perform biased random foraging in a seascape of spatially varying resource quality, leading to an approximation of the ideal free distribution. The simulation predicted a strong micro-evolutionary shift towards more sedentary behaviour as wide-ranging animals flow into a population sink caused by concentrated fishing. The shift towards short-rangers increased with fishing intensity and spatial precision with which fishing activity matches fish abundance; it decreased with habitat spatial complexity (fragmentation of suitable habitat). Most cases led to the effective extinction of the trait values at the upper end of the ranging continuum, indicating important implications for the management of exploited fish stocks.
Publication history: Accepted - 10 May 2022; Published - 17 June 2022.
fisheries induced evolution, ideal free distribution, dispersion, spatial population structure, behavioural syndrome
de Castro, F., Kraak, S.B.M., Shephard, S., Sadykov, A., Reid, D.G. and Farnsworth, K.D. (2022) ‘Move and you’re dead: commercial trawl fisheries select for fish that don’t move far’, ICES Journal of Marine Science. Edited by M. Heino. Oxford University Press (OUP). doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsac104.