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Using behavior and ecology to exploit schooling fishes

Abstract

By the late 1980's, humans were removing 76 million metric tons (MMT) of marine fishes annually. The potential sustainable catch is somewhere between 69 and 96 MMT. As a result, major fisheries have collapsed or are in danger of collapsing. Many of these species school. Schooling is effective against gape-limited predators because of dilution and confusion. However, larger predators may exploit schooling behavior to sequester and consume a non-trivial fraction of the group. This is the strategy of fishers. Both gear and fisher behavior have ‘evolved’ to take advantage of the seemingly canalized response of schooling species. This paper examines the ways artisanal and western fishers have exploited knowledge of the behavior and ecology of schooling species to aid in fish capture. Topics include object association; use of light, sound, and chemicals; perceived barriers; predator-prey and other trophic interactions; inherent cyclical rhythms such as diel migration, lunar spawning, and seasonality; and correlations with the physical environment. Exploiting schooling allows fishers to increase efficiency through knowledge of when and where fish aggregate, or by extending the conditions under which aggregation occurs. However, knowledge of behavioral ecology can also be used to conserve schooling stocks. Gear selectivity, group size and population dynamics, and fisher efficiency are all potential areas of integration between behavioral ecology and fishery management. However, no amount of integration of behavioral ecology into fishery management will have the intended conservation effects if fishing effort is not limited to at least numerical if not behaviorally-sustainable levels.

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Parrish, J.K. Using behavior and ecology to exploit schooling fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 55, 157–181 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007472602017

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007472602017

  • artisanal fisheries
  • overharvest
  • techno-fishing
  • conservation