Ecological structures: expansion and replacement
C. Bas

From an ecological point of view, the middle-sized pelagic fish, specially Trachurusspp and Scomber spp, are located between the little-pelagic fish (pilchards and anchovies) and the big migrators ones (tuna and related species).Its ecological rol has been considered as a particular level between the zooplanktivorous fish and the strictly piscivorous ones. These species have a global biomass between the other two groups of fish, that is to say, less that the little one and more than the big one. It is necessary to consider three distinctive aspects of the middle-sized pelagic fish: 1st. Its longevity with several age-groups in the different stocks of these species. 2nd. Its trophic plasticity, and 3rd. the high swimming capacity and resistant. As results ofthese three characteristics the populations of these species show a high stability and a major capacity of expansion, occuping, by replacement, the niches leaved by the over-exploited little- sized pelagic fish species. The total catches of pelagic fish species, in a high scale, do not show this capacity of replacement in a clear way. The analysis of specific fisheries shows that when the biomass of the little-sized pelagic fish decreased, it is followed by a significative increase of the middle-sized pelagic fish biomass. These are several fishing grounds in the world that have experimented a collapse of stocks of little-sized fish and quick rise, in biomass, of the middle-sized ones. The fisheries off the namibian coast are an excellent example. In this area the fishery on Sardinops ocellata collapsed and was follow by a strong increase in catches of Trachurustrecae and T. capensis. The japanese fishery of Sardinops melanostictahas experienced a significative decline compensate by a high expansion and increase in catches of Scomber japonicus. If a longer longevity with a more age-groups in the population mean a higher stability, the wide trophic spectrum (zooplankton and small fish, and even phytoplankton) capacitate tothese species to be much more competitives than other fish species during low favourable trophic conditions. The high swimming capacity, in the horizontal and vertical planes, facilitate to search for food in a more extensive areas,than that covered for the little-sized pelagic fish strongly dependents of the productive areas on the shelf (upwelling). As a result of all these characteristics, the middle-sized pelagic fish species show an important and quick expansion of their populations, occuping the depletioned zones and support a high fishing presure.

Keywords: Food spectrum, life span, geographic distribution, migrations, expansion and replacement.
Contents of this volume Sci. Mar. 59(3-4) : 373-380 Back PDF
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