Criteria for sustainable fisheries on juveniles illustrated for Mediterranean hake: control the juvenile harvest, and safeguard spawning refugia to rebuild population fecundity

John F. Caddy

Editorial comment by Josep Lloret and Jordi Lleonart
Commentary by Hans-Joachim Rätz
Answer by John F. Caddy

The paper provides a broad overview of issues relevant to management of fisheries for juvenile fish in contrast to the many stock assessments following Beverton and Holt’s (1957) approach for rational exploitation of mature fishes. A perspective on assessing these fisheries is illustrated for juvenile European hake, Merluccius merluccius, in the northwestern Mediterranean. Here, a constant natural mortality (M) assumption is incorrect, as is the assumption that high fecundities are necessarily adequate for stock replacement. The high Ms-at-age for juveniles generated by the reciprocal model are shown to be a logical counterpart to the high fecundity of hake. Charnov’s criterion of intergenerational reproductive replacement is used to test for a sustainable population, analogous to a limit reference point warning of the dangers of overfishing beyond population replacement. Once peak mortality rates of age 2 hake exceed F(2)=1.1-1.2, which is currently the case, reproductive replacement may be at risk. Adult exploitation by inshore trawls is low, and maturing hake surviving the fine-mesh trawl fishery migrate offshore with a reduced vulnerability to fine-mesh gears. Early research suggested that rough bottom near the shelf edge once formed a refugium protecting offshore spawners from trawling, and led to abundant recruitment of juveniles nearer shore. It may not do so if offshore fishing effort by reinforced bottom trawls, gill nets and longlines is uncontrolled. Restoring offshore refugia to protect spawners and controlling peak fishing mortality of juveniles would be a precautionary strategy aimed at restoring previous levels of recruitment to the small-mesh trawl fishery.

Keywords: harvesting juveniles; European hake; natural mortality at age; population fecundity; spawning refugia; intergenerational ratio; Charnov’s criterion; Mediterranean Sea.
Contents of this volume Sci. Mar. 79(3) : 287-299 Back PDF
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