Tuesday, March 21, 2006


From Big Fish to Shrimp

According to researchers, throwing back the little ones might lead to smaller fish over time.

Any commercial fisher or weekend angler knows to “throw the little ones back.” The idea is to give small fish time to grow up... But that strategy may actually be harming fish stocks. Ongoing experiments on captive fish reveal that harvesting only the largest individuals can actually force a species to evolve undesirable characteristics that diminish an overfished stock’s ability to recover, says David O. Conover, director of the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook University. The results may explain why many of the world’s most depleted stocks do not rebound as quickly as expected.

Check out Enviromental Economics for more details (and pictures!).

This seems to be a clever prediction of evolutionary theory, but I smell some economic implications too. Will your average fisherman throw back a few of the big fish he catches to mitigate the evolutionary problem? Or will he keep his big fish and hope some other sap throws back his trophy catches? I think the latter.

Such a potential co-ordination failure could lead to smaller fish and unhappy fiserman. Can anyone think of any possible solutions? I have a few, but no good ones.

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