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Free Content Fishing Down Marine Food Web: It is Far More Pervasive Than We Thought

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The widespread call for a transition toward "ecosystem-based" fisheries management implies the development and testing of sustainability indicators suitable for inferences on the status of the ecosystems within which fisheries resource species are embedded. The mean trophic level (TL) of fisheries catches has been shown to allow for such inferences, leading in the process to the identification of global trends toward catches being increasingly dominated by low-TL species, a process now known as "fishing down marine food webs." However, for inferences from TL trends to be accurate, taxonomic and especially geographic over-aggregation of the underlying catch data must be avoided. Accounting for these strong sources of bias suggests that the fishing down effect is far more pervasive than previously thought, and in fact occurs in areas where initial analyses failed to detect it. This confirms the common verdict of absent sustainability for most fisheries of the world. This is illustrated here by five brief case studies, of which three also document a new method for estimating ecosystem transfer efficiency, under a set of specific conditions, from time series of catches and their corresponding mean TL. Some suggestions are given on how work in this area might proceed.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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