How Fisheries Affect Evolution

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Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1176-1177
DOI: 10.1126/science.1245490

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The extensive exploitation of marine resources by modern fisheries (see the figure) has wide-ranging effects on marine ecosystems. Across the world's oceans, size-selective harvesting by commercial fisheries has been a key driving force behind changes in phenotypic traits such as body size and age at maturation (13). These changes have altered the trophic structure of the affected ecosystems, disturbed predatorprey relationships, and modified trophic cascade dynamics (3, 4). Phenotypic changes can involve both ecological and evolutionary reactions to the effect of fishing, and there has been much debate about the relative roles of these reactions. This is important because genetic changes could result in long-term reductions in catches. Recent work has provided evidence for fisheries-induced evolutionary changes, with important implications for the sustainability of fisheries.