Which community indicators can measure the impact of fishing? A review and proposals

Publication: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
January 2003


Population and community descriptors that might be used as indicators of the impact of fishing are reviewed. The criteria used for the evaluation of these indicators are meaning, expected effect of fishing, exclusiveness to fishing effects, and measurability. Population indicators such as total mortality rate, exploitation rate, or average length are the most operational indicators because their meaning is clear and the expected effect of fishing on them is well understood so that reference points can be set. On the other hand, indicators based on the composition of species assemblages such as diversity indices and ordination of species abundances are difficult to interpret, and the effect of fishing on them is not easily predicted. Robust indicators describing the community functions of interest (production and transfer of biomass to large fish), such as size spectra descriptors or the proportion of piscivorous fish in the community, are more promising but are not yet well developed. New candidate indicators are proposed: the change in fishing mortality required to reverse population growth rate, the proportion of noncommercial species in the community, and the average length and weight in the community.


Cet article passe en revue des descripteurs de population et de communauté qui pourraient être utilisés comme indicateurs de l'impact de la pêche. Les critères utilisés pour l'évaluation de ces indicateurs sont leur signification, leur sensibilité à la pêche, la spécificité de leur réponse à la pêche, et leur mesurabilité. Les indicateurs de population comme le taux de mortalité totale, le taux d'exploitation ou la taille moyenne sont les indicateurs les plus opérationnels car leur sens est clair, l'effet de la pêche sur leurs variations est bien compris et des points de référence peuvent être fixés. En revanche, les indicateurs fondés sur la composition spécifique des assemblages, comme les indices de diversité ou les analyses multivariées des abondances d'espèces, sont difficiles à interpréter et l'effet de la pêche sur eux est imprévisible. Des indicateurs robustes décrivant les fonctions utiles de la communauté (i.e., la production et le transfert de biomasse vers les grands poissons), comme les descripteurs des spectres de taille ou la proportion de poissons piscivores dans la communauté, semblent plus prometteurs mais ils ne sont pas encore au point. De nouveaux indicateurs potentiels sont aussi proposés : le changement de mortalité par pêche nécessaire pour inverser le taux de croissance de la population, la proportion d'espèces non commerciales dans la communauté, et la taille moyenne dans la communauté (en poids ou en longueur).

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cover image Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume 60Number 1January 2003
Pages: 86 - 99


Version of record online: 12 April 2011


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