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Posted Thu May 19 2011: from PNAS, via Ars Technica:
Fisheries collapse in a pattern unlike that seen on land
Conservationists desperately want to minimize the impact of overfishing on the oceans and their inhabitants. Doing so requires defining which species are most at risk, and so far, that has not been done on a global level. In terrestrial ecosystems, large-bodied species and top predators seem to be the most susceptible to human impacts; it has been assumed that the same holds true in the water. However, a recent report in PNAS indicates that this is not the case.... Contrary to what they expected, they found that almost twice the percentage of smaller, low trophic-level fish stocks had collapsed compared to large top predators. They could not find a correlation between collapse and any of the life history traits they examined, in any combination. Small fish that live near the surface tend to have rapid growth rates and are highly catchable, so are particularly at risk of being overfished. They can also have a "fast" life history strategy that led people to erroneously believe they were less vulnerable to overfishing. Perhaps this disparity with the situation on land is precisely because fisheries had been targeting these smaller fish, assuming that their populations were more resilient than they actually are.
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'Doc Jim says:
No correlation does not imply no causation.

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