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The Economic Cost of Ignoring Fishery Induced Evolution

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  • Ecologists warn that the rapid evolution occurring as a result of high-intensity commercial fishing could have potentially disastrous economic and ecological effects. The evolution of economically relevant life-history traits in fish, which can occur due to the harvesting pressure from commercial fisheries, can irreversibly diminish fisheries yields and ecological services. I model the interactions between the genetics, population structure, and economics of the fishery in order to determine whether the economic implications of this rapid evolution (called fisheries-induced evolution or FIE) are as potentially consequential as ecologists predict. My model is based on North-East Arctic Cod, which are long lived and for which an abundance of information exists, including proof of FIE. I compare the steady state reached by a `myopic’ fishery manager who sets effort and mesh size policy while ignoring evolution, to one who dynamically optimizes his strategy with the knowledge of how evolution will respond. This paper shows that ignoring evolution may lead to some profit loss, but not likely the `catastrophic’ amount of loss predicted by biologists. While the value of the fishery is somewhat improved when evolution is accounted for, an important auxiliary benefit of accounting for evolution is that the fish stock is healthier, with a larger biomass and a more balanced age-structure. Thus while, in a narrow sense, accounting for the evolutionary effects of fishing may yield only modest gains in the present value of returns, there may be broader reasons for fisheries managers to adopt policies that incorporate knowledge of FIE.
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  • Faig, Amanda D. 2015. The Economic Cost of Ignoring Fishery Induced Evolution. In: Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Forum of the North American Association of Fisheries Economists, May 20-22, 2015, Ketchikan, Alaska: Economic Sustainability, Fishing Communities and Working Waterfronts. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver and Melissa Errend. North American Association of Fisheries Economists, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2015.
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  • Ketchikan, Alaska, USA
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  • Alaska Sea Grant, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, North Pacific Research Board, Northern Economics, Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, Rasmuson Foundation, University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Southeast, Ketchikan
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