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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 8;105(14):5420-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709034105. Epub 2008 Apr 7.

Complex interplays among population dynamics, environmental forcing, and exploitation in fisheries.

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  • 1Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéen et Tropical, Avenue Jean Monnet, BP 171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France.


The patterns of variations in fisheries time series are known to result from a complex combination of species and fisheries dynamics all coupled with environmental forcing (including climate, trophic interactions, etc.). Disentangling the relative effects of these factors has been a major goal of fisheries science for both conceptual and management reasons. By examining the variability of 169 tuna and billfish time series of catch and catch per unit effort (CPUE) throughout the Atlantic as well as their linkage to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), we find that the importance of these factors differed according to the spatial scale. At the scale of the entire Atlantic the patterns of variations are primarily spatially structured, whereas at a more regional scale the patterns of variations were primarily related to the fishing gear. Furthermore, the NAO appeared to also structure the patterns of variations of tuna time series, especially over the North Atlantic. We conclude that the patterns of variations in fisheries time series of tuna and billfish only poorly reflect the underlying dynamics of these fish populations; they appear to be shaped by several successive embedded processes, each interacting with each other. Our results emphasize the necessity for scientific data when investigating the population dynamics of large pelagic fishes, because CPUE fluctuations are not directly attributable to change in species' abundance.

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