How ecological processes shape the outcomes of stock enhancement and harvest regulations in recreational fisheries

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Fish stocking and harvest regulations are frequently used to maintain or enhance freshwater recreational fisheries and contribute to fish conservation. However, their relative effectiveness has rarely been systematically evaluated using quantitative models that account for key size- and density-dependent ecological processes and adaptive responses of anglers. We present an integrated model of freshwater recreational fisheries where the population dynamics of two model species affect the effort dynamics of recreational anglers. With this model, we examined how stocking various fish densities and sizes (fry, fingerlings, and adults) performed relative to minimum-length limits using a variety of biological, social, and economic performance measures, while evaluating trade-offs. Four key findings are highlighted. First, stocking often augmented the exploited fish population, but size- and density- dependent bottlenecks limited the number of fry and fingerlings surviving to a catchable size inself-sustaining populations. The greatest enhancement of the catchable fish population occurred when large fish that escaped early bottlenecks were stocked, but this came at the cost of wild-stock replacement, thereby demonstrating a fundamental trade-off between fisheries benefits and conservation. Second, the relative performance of stocking naturally reproducing populations was largely independent of habitat quality and was generally low. Third, stocking was only economically advisable when natural reproduction was impaired or absent, stocking rates were low, and enough anglers benefitted from stocking to offset the associated costs. Fourth, in self-sustaining fish populations, minimum-length limits generally outperformed stocking when judged against a range of biological, social and economic objectives. By contrast, stocking in culture-based fisheries often generated substantial benefits. Collectively, our study demonstrates that size- and density-dependent processes, and broadly the degree of natural recruitment, drive the biological, social, and economic outcomes of popular management actions in recreational fisheries. To evaluate these outcomes and the resulting trade-offs, integrated fisheries-management models that explicitly consider the feedbacks among ecological and social processes are needed.

Johnston, F. D., Allen, M. S., Beardmore, B., Riepe, C., Pagel, T., Hühn, D., Arlinghaus, R. (2018). How ecological processes shape the outcomes of stock enhancement and harvest regulations in recreational fisheries. Ecological Applications, 28(8), 2033-2054

Veröffentlicht: 2018
Erschienen in: Ecological Applications, 28(8), 2033-2054