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The illusion of plenty: hyperstability masks collapses in two recreational fisheries that target fish spawning aggregations

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Fisheries that target fish spawning aggregations can exhibit hyperstability, in which catch per unit effort (CPUE) remains elevated as stock abundance declines, but empirical support is limited. We compiled several fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data sets to assess stock trends in the barred sand bass (Paralabrax nebulifer) and the kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) in southern California, USA, evaluate the interaction between spawning aggregations and fishing activities, and test for hyperstability. Annual and seasonal trends from fisheries and population data indicate that regional stocks of both species have collapsed in response to overfishing of spawning aggregations and changes in environmental conditions. The aggregating behavior of fish and persistent targeting of spawning aggregations by recreational fisheries combined to produce a hyperstable relationship between CPUE and stock abundance in both species, which created the illusion that population levels were stable and masked fishery collapses. Differences in the rate of decline between the two species may be related to the size, duration, and spatial distribution of their spawning aggregations. Results of this study provide empirical evidence of hyperstability in aggregation-based fisheries and demonstrate that CPUE data be used with caution and given low weight when fishery-independent data are available.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA 91330-8303, USA. 2: Vantuna Research Group, Department of Biology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA. 3: MBC Applied Environmental Sciences, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, USA. 4: Department of Economics, Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29201, USA.

Publication date: October 19, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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