Billfishes in an ecosystem context
Abstract:There is a rising tenor of calls for ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. Many billfishes are apex predators in pelagic food webs and, therefore, of potential ecological significance as keystone predators. Most billfishes are vulnerable to exploitation effects, especially those taken as by-catch where longline fishing occurs. We developed a series of ecosystem models that serve as tools for evaluating the role of billfishes and their fisheries across a range of scales. One of those models addressed ecological questions about responses to large marine protected areas. Another developed ecological and economic forecasts of billfish responses to reduced by-catch through specific changes in longline gear. A third posits the outcome of mandatory use of circle hooks by longline fisheries as a means for reducing sea turtle mortality. Changing to circle hooks in commercial fisheries has profound effects on catch rates for many fishes and, therefore, evokes substantial changes in food web dynamics. Enhanced catch-release practices for billfishes produce an ameliorative response that reduces mortality rates and furthers the economic benefits of recreational fisheries.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2006-11-01
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