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Ecol Appl. 2007 Dec;17(8):2268-80.

Size-selective harvesting alters life histories of a temperate sex-changing fish.

Author information

  • 1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-9610, USA. s_hamilt@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Abstract

Selective mortality, whether caused naturally by predation or through the influence of harvest practices, initiates changes within populations when individuals possessing certain heritable traits have increased fitness. Theory predicts that increased mortality rates will select for changes in a number of different life history characteristics. For example, fishing often targets larger individuals and has been shown repeatedly to alter population size structure and growth rates, and the timing of maturation. For sex-changing species, selective fishing practices can affect additional traits such as the mature population sex ratio and the timing of sexual transformation. Using historical comparisons, we examined the effects of exploitation on life history characteristics of California sheephead, Semicossyphus pulcher, a temperate protogynous (female-male sex changer) labrid that inhabits nearshore rocky environments from central California, USA, to southern Baja California, Mexico. Recreational fishing intensified and an unregulated commercial live-fish fishery developed rapidly in southern California between the historical and current studies. Collections of S. pulcher from three locations (Bahia Tortugas, Catalina Island, and San Nicolas Island) in 1998 were compared with data collected 20-30 years previously to ascertain fishery-induced changes in life history traits. At Bahia Tortugas, where fishing by the artisanal community remained light and annual survivorship stayed high, we observed no changes in size structure or shifts in the timing of maturation or the timing of sex change. In contrast, where recreational (Catalina) and commercial (San Nicolas) fishing intensified and annual survivorship correspondingly declined, males and females shifted significantly to smaller body sizes, females matured earlier and changed sex into males at both smaller sizes and younger ages and appeared to have a reduced maximum lifespan. Mature sex ratios (female:male) increased at San Nicolas, despite a twofold reduction in the mean time spent as a mature female. Proper fisheries management requires measures to prevent sex ratio skew, sperm limitation, and reproductive failure because populations of sequential hermaphrodites are more sensitive to size-selective harvest than separate-sex species. This is especially true for S. pulcher, where different segments of the fishery (commercial vs. recreational) selectively target distinct sizes and therefore sexes in different locations.

PMID:
18213967
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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