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Experimental demonstration of catch hyperstability from habitat aggregation, not effort sorting, in a recreational fishery

Journal Article

The relationship between angler catch rates and fish abundance can contribute to or hinder sustainable exploitation of fisheries depending on whether catch rates are proportional to fish abundance or are hyperstable. We performed a whole-ecosystem experiment in which fish abundance was manipulated and paired with weekly angler catch rate estimates from controlled experimental fishing. Catch rates were hyperstable (β = 0.47) in response to changes in fish abundance. By excluding effort sorting (i.e., catch rates remaining high because less skilled anglers leave the fishery as abundance declines), our experiment isolated the influence of fish aggregation as a driver of hyperstability. Spatial analysis of catch locations did not identify clustering around specific points, suggesting that loose aggregation to preferred habitat at the scale of the entire littoral zone was enough to maintain stable catch rates. In our study, general, non-spawning, habitat preferences created loose aggregations for anglers to target, which was sufficient to generate hyperstability. Habitat preferences are common to nearly all fishes and widely known to anglers, suggesting that many harvest-oriented recreational fisheries can be expected to exhibit hyperstability.

Year of Publication
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Canadian Science Publishing
0706-652X, 1205-7533
DOI 10.1139/cjfas-2019-0245