Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 239–272 | Cite as

Ecological effects of longline fishing and climate change on the pelagic ecosystem off eastern Australia

  • Shane P. Griffiths
  • Jock W. Young
  • Matt J. Lansdell
  • Robert A. Campbell
  • John Hampton
  • Simon D. Hoyle
  • Adam Langley
  • Donald Bromhead
  • Michael G. Hinton
Research Paper


Pelagic longline fisheries target (or catch incidently) large apex predators in the open ocean (e.g. tunas, billfish and sharks) and have the potential to disrupt the ecosystem functionality if these predators exert strong top–down control. In contrast, warming of oceans from climate change may increase bottom–up effects from increases in primary productivity. An ecosystem model of a large pelagic ecosystem off eastern Australia was constructed to explore the potential ecological effects of climate change and longlining by Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. The model reproduced historic biomass and fishery catch trends from 1952 to 2006 for seven functional groups. Simulated changes in fishing effort and fishing mortality rate on individual target species from 2008 to 2018 resulted in only modest (<20%) changes in the biomass of target species and their direct predators or competitors. A simulated increase in phytoplankton biomass due to climate change resulted in only small increases (<11%) in the biomass of all groups. However, climate-related changes to the biomass of micronekton fish (−20%) and cephalopods (+50%) resulted in trophic cascades. Our results suggest there may be ecological redundancy among high trophic level predators since they share a diverse suite of prey and collectively only represent <1% of the total system biomass. In contrast, micronekton fishes and cephalopods have high biomasses and high production and consumption rates and are important as both prey and predators. They appear to exert ‘wasp–waist’ control of the ecosystem rather than top–down or bottom–up processes reported to drive other pelagic systems.


Ecopath Ecosim Ecosystem modelling Top–down Bottom–up Wasp–waist Pacific Ocean 



Several people made an important contribution to the development of the ETBF ecosystem model by providing data or expert advice. Calibration of the Ecosim model would not have been possible without the use of data generated by stock assessments by staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; and the CSIRO. Villy Christensen (University of British Columbia), Hector Lozano-Montes and Cathy Bulman (CSIRO) provided valuable advice on fitting Ecosim models to time-series data. Jeff Dambacher (CSIRO) is thanked for providing catch and discard data for the ETBF. The ETBF model was developed within a project funded by the CSIRO Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research and the Fisheries Research Development Corporation “Determining ecological effects of longline fishing in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery” (FRDC Project No. 2004/063) and through a CSIRO “Julius Career Award” awarded to S.P. Griffiths.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shane P. Griffiths
    • 1
  • Jock W. Young
    • 2
  • Matt J. Lansdell
    • 2
  • Robert A. Campbell
    • 2
  • John Hampton
    • 3
  • Simon D. Hoyle
    • 3
  • Adam Langley
    • 3
  • Donald Bromhead
    • 3
  • Michael G. Hinton
    • 4
  1. 1.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchClevelandAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHobartAustralia
  3. 3.Oceanic Fisheries ProgrammeSecretariat of the Pacific CommunityNouméa CedexNew Caledonia
  4. 4.Inter-American Tropical Tuna CommissionLa JollaUSA

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