Fisheries catches and the carrying capacity of marine ecosystems in southern Brazil

Vasconcellos, Marcelo Cunha; Gasalla, Maria de los Angeles


The carrying capacity of marine shelf ecosystems in southern Brazil for harvestable species is analyzed by (1) quantifying the amount of available primary production appropriated by fisheries catches, (2) evaluating the trend in the mean trophic level of fisheries, and (3) simulating the ecosystem effects of “fishing down the food web” in an intensively exploited shelf region. Fisheries utilize ca. 27 and 53% of total primary production in the southern and south-eastern shelf regions, respectively. Regional variation in the carrying capacity appropriated by fisheries results from differences in the primary production, catch volume and trophic transfer efficiencies. Overall, fisheries landings do not display a trend of decreasing trophic level with time due to the collapse of the sardine fishery and the recent increasing of offshore fishing for higher trophic level species, mainly tunas and sharks. However, the simulations show that fishing down the food web through fisheries that target small pelagic planktivorous fishes, while at first increasing catches in intensively exploited regions, has the potential of decreasing yields, by interrupting major energy pathways to exploited, high-trophic level species. The consequences of these results to the design of precautionary measures for future fishing policies are discussed.

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  • IO - Artigos publicados em periódicos