The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: making the case for complexity

Howarth, Leigh M., Roberts, Callum M., Thurstan, Ruth H. and Stewart, Bryce D. 2014, The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: making the case for complexity, Fish and fisheries, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 690-711, doi: 10.1111/faf.12041.

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Title The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: making the case for complexity
Author(s) Howarth, Leigh M.
Roberts, Callum M.
Thurstan, Ruth H.ORCID iD for Thurstan, Ruth H.
Stewart, Bryce D.
Journal name Fish and fisheries
Volume number 15
Issue number 4
Start page 690
End page 711
Total pages 22
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Place of publication Chichester, Eng.
Publication date 2014-12
ISSN 1467-2960
Keyword(s) ecosystem change
phase shift
Summary Many over-exploited marine ecosystems worldwide have lost their natural populations of large predatory finfish and have become dominated by crustaceans and other invertebrates. Controversially, some of these simplified ecosystems have gone on to support highly successful invertebrate fisheries capable of generating more economic value than the fisheries they replaced. Such systems have been compared with those created by modern agriculture on land, in that existing ecosystems have been converted into those that maximize the production of target species. Here, we draw on a number of concepts and case-studies to argue that this is highly risky. In many cases, the loss of large finfish has triggered dramatic ecosystem shifts to states that are both ecologically and economically undesirable, and difficult and expensive to reverse. In addition, we find that those stocks left remaining are unusually prone to collapse from disease, invasion, eutrophication and climate change. We therefore conclude that the transition from multispecies fisheries to simplified invertebrate fisheries is causing a global decline in biodiversity and is threatening global food security, rather than promoting it.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/faf.12041
Field of Research 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)
0602 Ecology
0704 Fisheries Sciences
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2013, John Wiley & Sons
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