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Scientists Investigate Fish Shrinkage

Posted on Sep 18, 2011
Marco Raaphorst (CC-BY)

Seafood fans beware: You and your appetites may be toying with evolution. A team of scientists is investigating the fallout from overfishing, which causes fish to be smaller and reproduce earlier, and whether these changes are short-term reactions or the result of unnatural selection.

Because industrial fishing outfits intentionally go after the biggest fish in the sea, smaller individuals may have a better chance of surviving and propagating (assuming their species isn’t fished to extinction). Scientists want to know whether these changes are permanent and how fish populations might rebound if they were better protected.  —PZS


Determining the nature of the changes in the fish will help scientists understand how stocks might recover if overexploitation stopped or breeding grounds were protected.

“If we set aside 20-30% of the habitat where reproduction… of key commercial fish stocks [occurs], we are much more likely to avoid these types of problems,” said Dr [Carl]  Lundin.

He added that carrying out experiments of this type allows researchers to control other factors that could affect the fishes’ survival and concentrate on just the consequences of overexploitation.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, September 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

I guess it isn’t a big fish little fish world.

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By Night-Gaunt, September 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

Yes Evolution. That is how it works, breeding times are shorter in order for the fish to survive. They won’t grow as large as their predecessors because only the smaller ones survive.

Don’t you understand, it was the over fishing that caused the fish to start breeding sooner? That is breeding earlier than they use to. Environmental pressures is what Evolution functions from. No pressures, very little or no change.

Just another thing that humans have done to the vast oceans. After nearly emptying them of life over the past 300 years, this is the latest effects. Humans have gotten too expert at scoring the seas of life. That is Nature’s response. Change or die out.

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By garyrose66, September 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

Evolution? Come on.  These curious scientists should review the research of a couple of historians a few years ago who assembled and collated the photographs taken of tourist fishermen in Florida, NJ, and other deep sea fishing tourist locations over the past 60 or so years.  Every tourist who catches a big fish gets their picture taken with the fish hanging from the dock with the Captain and tourist who is looking like Hemmingway.  Reviewing 60 years of photos from the exact same docks, often with the exact same fishing boats and the aging Captains and their Captain sons and Captain grandsons taking over the same boats shows that the size of fish taken from the sea are getting smaller and smaller in direct proportion to the progress of time.  Todays fish are probably 1/3 the size of those hanging 60 years ago.  The reason?  There are no more large 60-80 year old marlins and sword fish et al in the ocean to be caught, only juvenile and teen age fish.  It’s not evolution-it’s over fishing and destruction of the ocean environment.

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