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Keywords:

  • fishing induced evolution;
  • maturation reaction norm;
  • walleye;
  • whitefish

Abstract

Eco-genetic individual-based models involve tracking the ecological dynamics of simulated individual organisms that are in part characterized by heritable parameters. We developed an eco-genetic individual-based model to explore ecological and evolutionary interactions of fish growth and maturation schedules. Our model is flexible and allows for exploration of the effects of heritable growth rates (based on von Bertalanffy and biphasic growth patterns), heritable maturation schedules (based on maturation reaction norm concepts), or both on individual- and population-level traits. In baseline simulations with rather simple ecological trade-offs and over a relatively short time period (<200 simulation years), simulated male and female fish evolve differential genetic growth and maturation. Further, resulting patterns of genetically determined growth and maturation are influenced by mortality rate and density-dependent processes, and maturation and growth parameters interact to mediate the evolution of one another. Subsequent to baseline simulations, we conducted experimental simulations to mimic fisheries harvest with two size-limits (targeting large or small fish), an array of fishing mortality rates, and assuming a deterministic or stochastic environment. Our results suggest that fishing with either size-limit may induce considerable changes in life-history trait expression (maturation schedules and growth rates), recruitment, and population abundance and structure. However, targeting large fish would cause more adverse genetic effects and may lead to a population less resilient to environmental stochasticity.