Harvesting Natural Populations in a Randomly Fluctuating Environment

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Science  29 Jul 1977:
Vol. 197, Issue 4302, pp. 463-465
DOI: 10.1126/science.197.4302.463


As harvesting effort and yield are increased, animal populations that are being harvested for sustained yield will take longer to recover from environmentally imposed disturbances. One consequence is that the coefficient of variation (the relative variance) of the yield increases as the point of maximum sustained yield (MSY) is approached. When overexploitation has resulted in a population smaller than that for MSY, high effort produces a low average yield with high variance. These observations accord with observed trends in several fish and whaling industries. We expect these effects to be more pronounced for a harvesting strategy based on constant quotas than for one based on constant effort. Although developed in a MSY context, the conclusions also apply if the aim is to maximize the present value of (discounted) net economic revenue.