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Reconciling fisheries catch and ocean productivity


Stock, CA and John, JG and Rykaczewski, RR and Asch, RG and Cheung, WWL and Dunne, JP and Friedland, KD and Lam, VWY and Sarmiento, JL and Watson, RA, Reconciling fisheries catch and ocean productivity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114, (8) pp. E1441-E1449. ISSN 0027-8424 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 The Authors

DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.1610238114


Photosynthesis fuels marine food webs, yet differences in fish catch across globally distributed marine ecosystems far exceed differences in net primary production (NPP). We consider the hypothesis that ecosystem-level variations in pelagic and benthic energy flows from phytoplankton to fish, trophic transfer efficiencies, and fishing effort can quantitatively reconcile this contrast in an energetically consistent manner. To test this hypothesis, we enlist global fish catch data that include previously neglected contributions from small-scale fisheries, a synthesis of global fishing effort, and plankton food web energy flux estimates from a prototype high-resolution global earth system model (ESM). After removing a small number of lightly fished ecosystems, stark interregional differences in fish catch per unit area can be explained (r = 0.79) with an energy-based model that (i) considers dynamic interregional differences in benthic and pelagic energy pathways connecting phytoplankton and fish, (ii) depresses trophic transfer efficiencies in the tropics and, less critically, (iii) associates elevated trophic transfer efficiencies with benthic-predominant systems. Model catch estimates are generally within a factor of 2 of values spanning two orders of magnitude. Climate change projections show that the same macroecological patterns explaining dramatic regional catch differences in the contemporary ocean amplify catch trends, producing changes that may exceed 50% in some regions by the end of the 21st century under high-emissions scenarios. Models failing to resolve these trophodynamic patterns may significantly underestimate regional fisheries catch trends and hinder adaptation to climate change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:fisheries catch, primary production, ocean productivity, climate change, food webs
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Aquaculture and fisheries stock assessment
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Social impacts of climate change and variability
UTAS Author:Watson, RA (Professor Reginald Watson)
ID Code:115257
Year Published:2017
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP140101377)
Web of Science® Times Cited:142
Deposited By:Fisheries and Aquaculture
Deposited On:2017-03-11
Last Modified:2018-03-21

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