Balanced harvesting could reduce fisheries-induced evolution
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Current fisheries management pays little attention to fisheries-induced evolution. Methods of exploitation that have benefits in the short term while ameliorating selection in the longer term would therefore be advantageous. Balanced harvesting is a potential candidate. This tries to bring fishing more in line with natural production, and some short-term benefits for conservation of aquatic ecosystems and for biomass yield have already been documented. It is also predicted to be relatively benign as a selective force on fish stocks, because it keeps the overall distribution of mortality relatively close to natural mortality. We test this prediction, coupling an ecological model of marine, size-spectrum dynamics to an adaptive dynamics model of life history evolution. The evolutionary variable is the reproductive schedule, set by the maximum body mass and the mass at maturation. The prediction is supported by our numerical analysis: Directional selection under balanced harvesting is approximately an order of magnitude weaker than in a standard fishery in which fish experience a fixed rate of fishing mortality after recruitment. The benefit of balanced harvesting follows from relatively little fishing on large fish, due to the low somatic production rates the big fish have. These results therefore support the general argument for protecting big, old fish, both for ecological and for evolutionary reasons. Slot fisheries that protect large fish share some qualitative features with balanced harvesting and show similar evolutionary benefits.