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Munch, SB, Giron-Nava A, Sugihara G.  2018.  Nonlinear dynamics and noise in fisheries recruitment: A global meta-analysis. Fish and Fisheries. 19:964-973.   10.1111/faf.12304   AbstractWebsite

The relative importance of environmental and intrinsic controls on recruitment in fishes has been studied for over a century. Despite this, we are not much closer to predicting recruitment. Rather, recent analyses suggest that recruitment is virtually independent of stock size and, instead, seems to occur in distinct environmental regimes. This issue of whether or not recruitment and subsequent production are coupled to stock size is highly relevant to management. Here, we apply empirical dynamical modelling (EDM) to a global database of 185 fish populations to address the questions of whether or not variation in recruitment is (a) predictable and (b) coupled to stock size. We find that a substantial fraction of recruitment variation is predictable using only the observed history of fluctuations (similar to 40% on average). In addition, although recruitment is often coupled to stock size (107 of 185 stocks), stock size alone explains very little of the variation in recruitment; In similar to 90% of the stocks analysed, EDM forecasts have substantially lower prediction error than models based solely on stock size. We find that predictability varies across taxa and improves with the number of generations that have been sampled. In the light of these results, we suggest that EDM will be of greatest use in managing relatively short-lived species.

Hsieh, CH, Reiss CS, Hewitt RP, Sugihara G.  2008.  Spatial analysis shows that fishing enhances the climatic sensitivity of marine fishes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 65:947-961.   10.1139/f08-017   AbstractWebsite

We compare the changes in geographic distribution of exploited fish species versus unexploited ones living in the same environment. For this comparative study, we use the 50- year larval fish time series from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations, which allows us to view fishing as a treatment effect in a long-term ecological experiment. Our results indicate that exploited species show a clearer distributional shift in response to environmental change than unexploited species, even after accounting for life history and ecological traits and phylogeny. The enhanced response (improved signal- noise ratio) to environmental change in exploited species may be a consequence of reduced spatial heterogeneity caused by fishery- induced age (size) truncation and the constriction of geographic distribution that accompanies fishing pressure. We suggest that reduced spatial heterogeneity can cause exploited populations to be more vulnerable to climate variability, an effect that could have considerable importance in the management of fish stocks. This is the first study to compare the geographic distributions of a large suite of exploited and unexploited fish species from the northeastern Pacific in response to climate variability.

Anderson, CNK, Hsieh CH, Sandin SA, Hewitt R, Hollowed A, Beddington J, May RM, Sugihara G.  2008.  Why fishing magnifies fluctuations in fish abundance. Nature. 452:835-839.   10.1038/nature06851   AbstractWebsite

It is now clear that fished populations can fluctuate more than unharvested stocks. However, it is not clear why. Here we distinguish among three major competing mechanisms for this phenomenon, by using the 50- year California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations ( CalCOFI) larval fish record. First, variable fishing pressure directly increases variability in exploited populations. Second, commercial fishing can decrease the average body size and age of a stock, causing the truncated population to track environmental fluctuations directly. Third, age- truncated or juvenescent populations have increasingly unstable population dynamics because of changing demographic parameters such as intrinsic growth rates. We find no evidence for the first hypothesis, limited evidence for the second and strong evidence for the third. Therefore, in California Current fisheries, increased temporal variability in the population does not arise from variable exploitation, nor does it reflect direct environmental tracking. More fundamentally, it arises from increased instability in dynamics. This finding has implications for resource management as an empirical example of how selective harvesting can alter the basic dynamics of exploited populations, and lead to unstable booms and busts that can precede systematic declines in stock levels.