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Mol Ecol. 2008 Jan;17(1):294-313. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

The nature of fisheries- and farming-induced evolution.

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Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4J1.


Humans have a penchant for unintentionally selecting against that which they desire most. In fishes, unprecedented reductions in abundance have been associated with unprecedented changes in harvesting and aquaculture technologies. Fishing, the predominant cause of fish-population collapses, is increasingly believed to generate evolutionary changes to characters of import to individual fitness, population persistence and levels of sustainable yield. Human-induced genetic change to wild populations can also result from interactions with their domesticated counterparts. Our examination of fisheries- and farming-induced evolution includes factors that may influence the magnitude, rate and reversibility of genetic responses, the potential for shifts in reaction norms and reduced plasticity, loss of genetic variability, outbreeding depression and their demographic consequences to wild fishes. We also suggest management initiatives to mitigate the effects of fisheries- and farming-induced evolution. Ultimately, the question of whether fishing or fish farming can cause evolutionary change is moot. The key issue is whether such change is likely to have negative conservation- or socio-economic consequences. Although the study of human-induced evolution on fishes should continue to include estimates of the magnitude and rate of selection, there is a critical need for research that addresses short- and long-term demographic consequences to population persistence, plasticity, recovery and productivity.

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