Implications of late-in-life density-dependent growth for fishery size-at-entry leading to maximum sustainable yield

Rob van Gemert*, Ken Haste Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Currently applied fisheries models and stock assessments rely on the assumption that density-dependent regulation only affects processes early in life, as described by stock–recruitment relationships. However, many fish stocks also experience density-dependent processes late in life, such as density-dependent adult growth. Theoretical studies have found that, for stocks which experience strong late-in-life density dependence, maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is obtained with a small fishery size-at-entry that also targets juveniles. This goes against common fisheries advice, which dictates that primarily adults should be fished. This study aims to examine whether the strength of density-dependent growth in actual fish stocks is sufficiently strong to reduce optimal fishery size-at-entry to below size-at-maturity. A size-structured model is fitted to three stocks that have shown indications of late-in-life density-dependent growth: North Sea plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), Northeast Atlantic (NEA) mackerel (Scomber scombrus), and Baltic sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus). For all stocks, the model predicts exploitation at MSY with a large size-at-entry into the fishery, indicating that late-in-life density dependence in fish stocks is generally not strong enough to warrant the targeting of juveniles. This result lends credibility to the practise of predominantly targeting adults in spite of the presence of late-in-life density-dependent growth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1296–1305
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Density dependence
  • Maximum sustainable yield
  • Selective fishing
  • Size spectrum


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