Fishery-induced changes in a marine ecosystem: insight from models of the Gulf of Thailand


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Two mass-balance trophic models are constructed to describe the Gulf of Thailand ecosystem (10–50 m depth): one model pertains to the initial phase of fisheries development, and the other to when the resources were severely depleted. The two phases are compared, and changes brought about by fishing discussed. A dynamic simulation model, Ecosim, is then used successfully to reproduce the 1980 state of the fishery based on the 1963 model and the development in catches. In addition the 1980 model is used to predict how the ecosystem groups may bounce back following marked reduction in fishing pressure. Finally, the 1963 model is used to study alternative scenarios for how the fisheries development could take place, notably the effect of exploiting only the resources of larger species. The study validates that the Ecosim model can be used to predict ecosystem level changes following changes in fishing pressure, therefore fishing induced changes can to a large extent explain the changes in ecosystem pools and fluxes observed over time.