ICES Journal of Marine Science Advance Access published July 11, 2015
ICES Journal of
Marine Science ICES Journal of Marine Science; doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsv122
Food for Thought A critique of the balanced harvesting approach to ﬁshing Rainer Froese 1*, Carl Walters 2, Daniel Pauly 2, Henning Winker3,4, Olaf L. F. Weyl5, Nazli Demirel 6, Athanassios C. Tsikliras7, and Sidney J. Holt 8 GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Du¨sternbrooker Weg 20, Kiel 24105, Germany Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada 3 South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch Research Centre, Claremont 7735, South Africa 4 Centre for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation (SEEC), Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa 5 South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa 6 Institute of Marine Sciences and Management, Istanbul University, Istanbul 34134, Turkey 7 Department of Ichthyology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece 8 Independent Scientist, Paciano, Italy 2
*Corresponding author: tel: + 49 431 600 4579; fax: + 49 431 600 1699; e-mail: [email protected]
Froese, R., Walters, C., Pauly, D., Winker, H., Weyl, O. L. F., Demirel, N., Tsikliras, A. C., and Holt, S. J. A critique of the balanced harvesting approach to ﬁshing. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsv122. Received 8 April 2015; revised 19 June 2015; accepted 22 June 2015. The approach to ﬁsheries termed “balanced harvesting” (BH) calls for ﬁshing across the widest possible range of species, stocks, and sizes in an ecosystem, in proportion to their natural productivity, so that the relative size and species composition is maintained. Such ﬁshing is proposed to result in higher catches with less negative impact on exploited populations and ecosystems. This study examines the models and the empirical evidence put forward in support of BH. It ﬁnds that the models used unrealistic settings with regard to life history (peak of cohort biomass at small sizes), response to ﬁshing (strong compensation of ﬁshing mortality by reduced natural mortality), and economics (uniform high cost of ﬁshing and same ex-vessel price for all species and sizes), and that empirical evidence of BH is scarce and questionable. It concludes that evolutionary theory, population dynamics theory, ecosystem models with realistic assumptions and settings, and widespread empirical evidence do not support the BH proposal. Rather, this body of evidence suggests that BH will not help but will hinder the policy changes needed for the rebuilding of ecosystems, healthy ﬁsh populations, and sustainable ﬁsheries. Keywords: balanced harvesting, ecosystem-based ﬁsheries management, population dynamics theory, selectivity, size at ﬁrst capture, size at maturity.
Introduction A string of publications has proposed a new approach to fishing, called “balanced harvesting” (BH; Kolding and van Zwieten, 2011, 2014; Garcia et al., 2012, 2015; Law et al., 2012, 2013, 2014). The new approach is defined as “. . . distributing a moderate mortality from fishing across the widest possible range of species, stocks, and sizes in an ecosystem, in proportion to their natural productivity, so that the relative size and species composition is maintained” (Garcia et al., 2012). Moderate fishing refers here to fishing mortality rates about equal to the rate of natural mortality at the respective body size (Caddy and Sharp, 1986; Law et al., 2013). Fishing is # International
proposed to include all trophic levels above primary producers, starting with organisms of 1 g body weight (e.g. Law et al., 2013), corresponding to 5 cm length in typical fish. Fishing mortality on juveniles is proposed to be compensated by reduced predation mortality. Such fishing is suggested to minimize the impact of exploitation on the structure of ecosystems and to lead to increased yields from larg