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September 18, 2011 / availableworld

Fish shrinkage probed in lab


Scientists are starting a novel project to investigate whether overfishing alters fish behaviour and changes their pattern of development.

Overexploitation of stocks has already been shown to select for smaller fish.

A team reporting at the meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology in Germany will deliberately remove the largest individuals from populations of lab-bred guppies.

The experiment is designed to uncover what is happening in our oceans.

“There are clear indications that almost all… commercial fish are shrinking,” said marine biologist Carl Lundin, who directs the International Union for the Conservation of Nature‘s Global Marine and Polar Program.

For mass spawning fish such as cod, there is a great advantage to maintaining older, larger females because they are very efficient at restocking the population.

And if industrial fishing selectively removes the largest individuals, explained Dr Lundin, the industry suffers as populations are reduced to the smallest fish.

However, smaller seafood is unlikely to be the only consequence of industrial fishing; research has also shown that fish in the oceans are reproducing earlier.

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