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Should ‘superspawners’ stir up fisheries management? by Erik Stokstad May 10,2018   |  Source: Science

There is no fertility clock for fish. Unlike in mammals, the reproductive ability of most female fish just keeps increasing as they age and grow—bigger fish produce more and more eggs. In many species, the fecundity gains can be especially impressive, creating what might be called “superspawners” that produce disproportionately large numbers of offspring, a new study finds. But these reproductive giants aren’t getting enough protection under fishing regulations, the authors suggest.

Some fisheries scientists disagree with that conclusion. But the finding is “a perfect reminder that in order to rebuild fish stocks and prepare them for global change, we have to increase the proportion of large fish,” says Rainer Froese, a marine ecologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, who was not involved in the study.

It’s been known for decades that fish fertility generally increases with size. A cod that is 70 centimeters long, for example, can produce eight times as many eggs as a younger fish half its size can. But it’s been hotly debated whether larger females are especially important for keeping fish stocks healthy. Most of the models used to manage fisheries assume, because of a lack of comprehensive evidence to the contrary, that the


© 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Theme(s): Fisheries Development and Aquaculture.

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