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Rapid depletion of genotypes with fast growth and bold personality traits from harvested fish populations

Biro, Peter A., Post, John R.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008 v.105 no.8 pp. 2919-2922
appetite, aquacultural and fisheries equipment, body size, evolution, fish, fish production, fisheries, genotype, lakes, life history
The possibility for fishery-induced evolution of life history traits is an important but unresolved issue for exploited fish populations. Because fisheries tend to select and remove the largest individuals, there is the evolutionary potential for lasting effects on fish production and productivity. Size selection represents an indirect mechanism of selection against rapid growth rate, because individual fish may be large because of rapid growth or because of slow growth but old age. The possibility for direct selection on growth rate, whereby fast-growing genotypes are more vulnerable to fishing irrespective of their size, is unexplored. In this scenario, faster-growing genotypes may be more vulnerable to fishing because of greater appetite and correspondingly greater feeding-related activity rates and boldness that could increase encounter with fishing gear and vulnerability to it. In a realistic whole-lake experiment, we show that fast-growing fish genotypes are harvested at three times the rate of the slow-growing genotypes within two replicate lake populations. Overall, 50% of fast-growing individuals were harvested compared with 30% of slow-growing individuals, independent of body size. Greater harvest of fast-growing genotypes was attributable to their greater behavioral vulnerability, being more active and bold. Given that growth is heritable in fishes, we speculate that evolution of slower growth rates attributable to behavioral vulnerability may be widespread in harvested fish populations. Our results indicate that commonly used minimum size-limits will not prevent overexploitation of fast-growing genotypes and individuals because of size-independent growth-rate selection by fishing.