FACILITATION OF FISHERIES BY NATURAL PREDATORS DEPENDS ON LIFE HISTORY OF SHARED PREY

28 February 2014

Huss, Magnus; de Roos, André; Van Leeuwen, Anieke; Gårdmark, Anna

Predators commonly share prey with human exploiters, intuitively suggesting that there is an inherent human-predator conflict through competition for prey. Here we studied the effects of fishing and predation mortality on biomass distributions and yields of shared prey using a size-structured model of competing populations, describing the life histories of Baltic Sea sprat and herring. Whereas both species responded in a similar fashion to increased fishing mortality, with decreasing juvenile and adult biomasses, we found that responses to predation mortality differed between species. Sprat only display weak compensatory responses with increasing predation mortality, while over a substantial range of mortalities there was a strong increase in adult (and total) herring biomass, i.e. overcompensation. The observed biomass overcompensation results from relaxed intraspecific competition as predation mortality increased, allowing for faster individual growth rates that in turn lead to a change in population composition (juvenile:adult biomass ratio). Our results suggest that the potential for biomass overcompensation is higher for species exhibiting substantial growth after maturation. Differences in size-selectivity of predators and fishing mortality resulted in a positive effect of predation mortality on fisheries yields, which can be explained by an overcompensatory response in adult herring biomass. Thus, somewhat counter intuitive, our results suggest that fishermen, depending on prey life history, may actually benefit from allowing for a higher abundance of predators, despite competing for shared prey.

Doi
10.1111/oik.00839