Biomass, Size, and Trophic Status of Top Predators in the Pacific Ocean

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Science  15 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5806, pp. 1773-1776
DOI: 10.1126/science.1135347

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Fisheries have removed at least 50 million tons of tuna and other top-level predators from the Pacific Ocean pelagic ecosystem since 1950, leading to concerns about a catastrophic reduction in population biomass and the collapse of oceanic food chains. We analyzed all available data from Pacific tuna fisheries for 1950–2004 to provide comprehensive estimates of fishery impacts on population biomass and size structure. Current biomass ranges among species from 36 to 91% of the biomass predicted in the absence of fishing, a level consistent with or higher than standard fisheries management targets. Fish larger than 175 centimeters fork length have decreased from 5% to approximately 1% of the total population. The trophic level of the catch has decreased slightly, but there is no detectable decrease in the trophic level of the population. These results indicate substantial, though not catastrophic, impacts of fisheries on these top-level predators and minor impacts on the ecosystem in the Pacific Ocean.

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