Recruitment in a changing environment: the 2000s North Sea herring recruitment failure

Mark Payne, E.M.C. Hatfield, M. Dickey-Collas, T. Falkenhaug, A. Gallego, J. Gröger, P. Licandro, M. Llope, Peter Munk, C. Röckmann, J.Ö. Schmidt, R.D.M. Nash

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Environmentally induced change appears to be impacting the recruitment of North Sea herring (Clupea harengus). Despite simultaneously having a large adult population, historically low exploitation, and Marine Stewardship Council accreditation (implying sustainability), there have been an unprecedented 6 sequential years of poor juvenile production (recruitment). Analysis suggests that the poor recruitment arises during the larval overwintering phase, with recent survival rates greatly reduced. Contemporary warming of the North Sea has caused significant changes in the plankton community, and a recently identified regime shift around 2000 shows close temporal agreement with the reduced larval survival. It is, therefore, possible that we are observing the first consequences of this planktonic change for higher trophic levels. There is no indication of a recovery in recruitment in the short term. Fishing mortality is currently outside the agreed management plan, and forecasts show a high risk of the stock moving outside safe biological limits soon, potentially precipitating another collapse of the stock. However, bringing the realized fishing mortality back in line with the management plan would likely alleviate the problem. This illustrates again that recruitment is influenced by more than just spawning-stock biomass, and that changes in other factors can be of equal, or even greater, importance. In such dynamically changing environments, recent management success does not necessarily guarantee future sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume66
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)272-277
ISSN1054-3139
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • environmental change
  • recruitment
  • sustainability
  • North Sea herring
  • regime shift

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