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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