The effects of size-selective fisheries on the stock dynamics of and sperm limitation in sex-changing fish


Alonzo, Suzanne H., and Marc Mangel
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Fisheries models have traditionally focused on patterns of growth, fecundity, and survival of fish. However, reproductive rates are the outcome of a variety of interconnected factors such as life-history strategies, mating patterns, population sex ratio, social interactions, and individual fecundity and fertility. Behaviorally appropriate models are necessary to understand stock dynamics and predict the success of management strategies. Protogynous sex-changing fish present a challenge for management because size-selective fisheries can drastically reduce reproductive rates. We present a general framework using an individual-based simulation model to determine the effect of life-history pattern, sperm production, mating system, and management strategy on stock dynamics. We apply this general approach to the specific question of how size-selective fisheries that remove mainly males will impact the stock dynamics of a protogynous population with fixed sex change compared to an otherwise identical dioecious population. In this dioecious population, we kept all aspects of the stock constant except for the pattern of sex determination (i.e. whether the species changes sex or is dioecious). Protogynous stocks with fixed sex change are predicted to be very sensitive to the size-selective fishing pattern. If all male size classes are fished, protogynous populations are predicted to crash even at relatively low fishing mortality. When some male size classes escape fishing, we predict that the mean population size of sex-changing stocks will decrease proportionally less than the mean population size of dioecious species experiencing the same fishing mortality. For protogynous species, spawning-per-recruit measures that ignore fertilization rates are not good indicators of the impact of fishing on the population. Decreased mating aggregation size is predicted to lead to an increased effect of sperm limitation at constant fishing mortality and effort. Marine protected areas have the potential to mitigate some effects of fishing on sperm limitation in sex-changing populations.