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Keywords:

  • exploitation;
  • fish;
  • freshwater;
  • marine;
  • physiology/life-history nexus

Abstract

Knowledge of life-history traits is increasingly recognized as an important criterion for effective management and conservation. Understanding the link between physiology and life history is an important component of this knowledge and in our view is particularly relevant to understanding marine and freshwater fishes. Such linkages (i.e. the life-history/physiology nexus) have been recently advocated for avian systems and here we explore this concept for fish. This paper highlights the gap in fisheries literature with regard to understanding the relationship between physiology and life history, and proposes ways in which this integration could improve fisheries management and conservation. We use three case studies on different fishes (i.e. the Pacific salmon, the grouper complex and tuna) to explore these issues. The physiological structure and function of fish plays a central role in determining stock response to exploitation and changes in the environment. Physiological measures can provide simple indicators necessary for cost-effective monitoring in the evaluation of fisheries sustainability. The declining state of world fisheries and the need to develop and implement restoration strategies, such as hatchery production or protected areas, provides strong incentive to better understand the influence of physiology on population and reproductive dynamics and early life history. Physiology influences key population-level processes, particularly those dealing with reproduction, which must be incorporated into the design and successful implementation of specific and broadscale initiatives (e.g. aquatic protected areas and bycatch reduction). Suggestions are made for how to encourage wider application of the physiology/life-history link, in fisheries management and conservation, as well as more broadly in education and research.