Injuries from non-retention in gillnet fisheries suppress reproductive maturation in escaped fish.

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Injuries from non-retention in gillnet fisheries suppress reproductive maturation in escaped fish.

PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e69615

Authors: Baker MR, Swanson P, Young G

Exploitation of fisheries resources has unintended consequences, not only in the bycatch and discard of non-target organisms, but also in damage to targeted fish that are injured by gear but not landed (non-retention). Delayed mortality due to non-retention represents lost reproductive potential in exploited stocks, while not contributing to harvest. Our study examined the physiological mechanisms by which delayed mortality occurs and the extent to which injuries related to disentanglement from commercial gear compromise reproductive success in spawning stocks of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.). We found evidence for elevated stress in fish injured via non-retention in gillnet fisheries. Plasma cortisol levels correlated with the severity of disentanglement injury and were elevated in fish that developed infections related to disentanglement injuries. We also analyzed sex steroid concentrations in females (estradiol-17β and 17,20β-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one) to determine whether non-retention impairs reproductive potential in escaped individuals. We demonstrate evidence for delayed or inhibited maturation in fish with disentanglement injuries. These findings have important implications for effective conservation and management of exploited fish stocks and suggest means to improve spawning success in such stocks if retention in commercial fisheries is improved and incidental mortality reduced.

PMID: 23894510 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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