The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: Making the case for complexity

Howarth, Leigh M., Roberts, Callum M., Thurstan, Ruth H. and Stewart, Bryce D. (2014) The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: Making the case for complexity. Fish and Fisheries, 15 4: 690-711. doi:10.1111/faf.12041

Author Howarth, Leigh M.
Roberts, Callum M.
Thurstan, Ruth H.
Stewart, Bryce D.
Title The unintended consequences of simplifying the sea: Making the case for complexity
Journal name Fish and Fisheries   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1467-2960
Publication date 2014-12-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/faf.12041
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 15
Issue 4
Start page 690
End page 711
Total pages 22
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Many over-exploited marine ecosystems worldwide have lost their natural populations of large predatory finfish and have become dominated by crustaceans and other invertebrates. Controversially, some of these simplified ecosystems have gone on to support highly successful invertebrate fisheries capable of generating more economic value than the fisheries they replaced. Such systems have been compared with those created by modern agriculture on land, in that existing ecosystems have been converted into those that maximize the production of target species. Here, we draw on a number of concepts and case-studies to argue that this is highly risky. In many cases, the loss of large finfish has triggered dramatic ecosystem shifts to states that are both ecologically and economically undesirable, and difficult and expensive to reverse. In addition, we find that those stocks left remaining are unusually prone to collapse from disease, invasion, eutrophication and climate change. We therefore conclude that the transition from multispecies fisheries to simplified invertebrate fisheries is causing a global decline in biodiversity and is threatening global food security, rather than promoting it.
Keyword Ecosystem change
Phase shift
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 24 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 25 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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