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Watch Video: How the Fishing Industry Affects Fish Evolution

Over time, catches become smaller as fish DNA changes. The answer may be to stop going for the big ones.

By Matt Hrodey
Apr 19, 2023 5:10 PMApr 19, 2023 5:08 PM
Fish evolution video
(Credit: Knowable magazine/Youtube)


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The world's fishing industry largely acts like a sieve separating the larger fish the keepers taken for human purposes from the smaller ones, which go on to reproduce. This process creates a kind of evolutionary pressure, according to researchers, affecting the genetic makeup of generations to come.

A 2002 study found it took only four generations of such size-focused fishing to shrink the size of the ensuing generations. While the strategy initially produced large yields, the hauls declined over time.

"People like to fish large specimens of a single species, and that means it becomes dangerous to be a large specimen," says Mikko Heino, a fisheries biologist at the University of Bergen.

He recommends that commercial fishers target medium-sized fish to strike a balance between evolutionary and reproductive concerns.

This video originally appeared in Knowable Magazine, an independent journalistic endeavor from Annual Reviews. You can view the original here.

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