, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 711-735

Assessing evolutionary consequences of size-selective recreational fishing on multiple life-history traits, with an application to northern pike (Esox lucius)

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Abstract

Despite mounting recognition of the importance of fishing-induced evolution, methods for quantifying selection pressures on multiple adaptive traits affected by size-selective harvesting are still scarce. We study selection differentials on three life-history traits—reproductive investment, size at maturation, and growth capacity—under size-selective exploitation of northern pike (Esox lucius L.) with recreational-fishing gear. An age-structured population model is presented that accounts for the eco-evolutionary feedback arising from density-dependent and frequency-dependent selection. By introducing minimum-length limits, maximum-length limits, and combinations of such limits (resulting in harvestable-slot length limits) into the model, we examine the potential of simple management tools for mitigating selection pressures induced by recreational fishing. With regard to annual reproductive investment, we find that size-selective fishing mortality exerts relatively small positive selection differentials. By contrast, selection differentials on size at maturation are large and consistently negative. Selection differentials on growth capacity are often large and positive, but become negative when a certain range of minimum-length limits are applied. In general, the strength of selection is reduced by implementing more stringent management policies, but each life-history trait responds differently to the introduction of specific harvest regulations. Based on a simple genetic inheritance model, we examine mid- and long-term evolutionary changes of the three life-history traits and their impacts on the size spectrum and yield of pike. Fishing-induced evolution often reduces sizes and yields, but details depend on a variety of factors such as the specific regulation in place. We find no regulation that is successful in reducing to zero all selection pressures on life-history traits induced by recreational fishing. Accordingly, we must expect that inducing some degree of evolution through recreational fishing is inevitable.