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Keywords:

  • Atlantic cod;
  • life-history evolution;
  • natural mortality;
  • recruitment;
  • spawning stock;
  • survival cost of reproduction

Abstract

Arguably the most fundamental of trade-offs in life-history evolution is the increase in natural mortality resulting from sexual maturity and reproduction. Despite its central importance, this increase in mortality, a survival cost, garners surprisingly little attention in fish and fisheries modeling studies. We undertook an exploratory analysis to evaluate the consequences of this omission for life-history projections. To this end, we developed a simulation approach that integrates quantitative genetics into the ecological dynamics of a fish population and parameterized the model for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua, L.). When compared to simulations in which the mortality of immature and mature individuals is equal, the inclusion of a survival cost results in larger asymptotic body size, older age at maturity, and larger size at maturity. We also find that measures of population productivity (spawning stock biomass, recruits-per-spawner) are overestimated if the survival cost is excluded. This sensitivity of key metrics of population growth rate and reproductive capacity to the magnitude of the survival cost of reproduction underscores the need to explicitly account for this trade-off in projections of fish population responses to natural and anthropogenic environmental change, including fisheries.