Ecosystem Effects of Invertebrate Fisheries

Since the 1950s, catches of marine invertebrate fisheries have increased six-fold, to over 10 million tons annually, due to expansion of new invertebrate fisheries following declines or more restrictive management of finfish fisheries. In the oceans, invertebrates are a critical food source for fish, mammals, and birds. Yet many invertebrate fisheries lack stock assessments and management plans.

In a series of recent papers, Dr. Tyler Eddy and colleagues found that many invertebrates play important roles in marine ecosystems, and their effects are comparable in magnitude to those of forage fish. They also found that invertebrates are generally more sensitive to fishing than finfish, and many species are being fished at rates higher than those that would produce maximum sustainable yield. Furthermore, many invertebrates do not follow the traditional fisheries science prediction that only highly connected or highly abundant species will have high ecosystem impacts. This suggests the need for precautionary management, since the consequences of fishing and other human activities can be unpredictable.

In this webinar Dr. Eddy presented the results of his recent work, which touches on lobster fisheries in New Zealand and Nova Scotia, and on global patterns revealed by ecosystem modeling. To read more about this project led by Dr. Heike Lotze and supported by the Lenfest Ocean Program, please visit