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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e43966. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043966. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Marine mammal impacts in exploited ecosystems: would large scale culling benefit fisheries?

Author information

1
Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec, Canada. lyne.morissette@globetrotter.net

Abstract

Competition between marine mammals and fisheries for marine resources-whether real or perceived-has become a major issue for several countries and in international fora. We examined trophic interactions between marine mammals and fisheries based on a resource overlap index, using seven Ecopath models including marine mammal groups. On a global scale, most food consumed by marine mammals consisted of prey types that were not the main target of fisheries. For each ecosystem, the primary production required (PPR) to sustain marine mammals was less than half the PPR to sustain fisheries catches. We also developed an index representing the mean trophic level of marine mammal's consumption (TL(Q)) and compared it with the mean trophic level of fisheries' catches (TL(C)). Our results showed that overall TL(Q) was lower than TL(C) (2.88 versus 3.42). As fisheries increasingly exploit lower-trophic level species, the competition with marine mammals may become more important. We used mixed trophic impact analysis to evaluate indirect trophic effects of marine mammals, and in some cases found beneficial effects on some prey. Finally, we assessed the change in the trophic structure of an ecosystem after a simulated extirpation of marine mammal populations. We found that this lead to alterations in the structure of the ecosystems, and that there was no clear and direct relationship between marine mammals' predation and the potential catch by fisheries. Indeed, total biomass, with no marine mammals in the ecosystem, generally remained surprisingly similar, or even decreased for some species.

PMID:
22970153
PMCID:
PMC3435392
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0043966
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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