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Identifying historical baseline at the onset of exploitation to improve understanding of fishing impacts


Novaglio, C and Smith, ADM and Frusher, SD and Ferretti, F, Identifying historical baseline at the onset of exploitation to improve understanding of fishing impacts, Aquatic Conservation, 30, (3) pp. 475-485. ISSN 1052-7613 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2020 Commonwealth of Australia.Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystem 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1002/aqc.3264


  1. Marine communities have long been impacted by human activities, but the quantification of human‐driven changes often relies on recent data. This is because historical data on fish populations are lacking and are challenging to include in contemporary stock and ecological assessments. As a result, the impacts of early fishing pressure on marine communities are generally poorly documented worldwide.
  2. Marine communities of Southeast Australia have a relatively short history of exploitation compared with other temperate systems and were sampled before and after the onset of commercial fishing. As such, they provide a rare opportunity to identify historical baselines and to understand ecological changes after the onset of commercial exploitation.
  3. This study compares survey data collected around Tasmania, Southeast Australia, in 19091910 with data from the 1980s. The period considered precedes the establishment of a trawl fishery in Southeast Australia in 1915, of other important commercial fisheries in Tasmania, and of a fisheries data collection programme in 1984. Nominal catch rates are used to examine changes across all families of demersal fish recorded in catches and generalized linear models are used to estimate and compare standardized indices of abundance between the 19091910 and 1980s data for key commercial families.
  4. Results show significant, and thus far unreported, fishing‐induced changes in marine communities after the establishment of commercial fishing in the region. Changes mostly relate to shifts in catch composition and steep declines in the abundance of the main commercial families.
  5. This study illustrates a method for analysing low‐quality historical catch data and provides estimates of pre‐commercial fishing abundance that can be included in stock and ecological assessments. More broadly, this study demonstrates the significant role of early fishing in shaping marine communities and increases our understanding about general patterns of exploitation that have been difficult to identify with longer but less detailed fishing histories.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:catchability, ecological status, fish, ocean, survey, sustainability, trawling
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Fisheries sciences
Research Field:Fisheries management
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - wild caught
Objective Field:Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Novaglio, C (Dr Camilla Novaglio)
UTAS Author:Smith, ADM (Dr Tony Smith)
UTAS Author:Frusher, SD (Professor Stewart Frusher)
ID Code:143551
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2021-03-24
Last Modified:2021-05-19

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