Assessing the sensitivity and specificity of fish community indicators to management action

Jennifer E. Houle, Keith D. Farnsworth, Axel G. Rossberg, David G. Reid

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36 Citations (Scopus)


We assessed ten trophodynamic indicators of ecosystem status for their sensitivity and specificity to fishing management using a size-resolved multispecies fish community model. The responses of indicators to fishing depended on effort and the size selectivity (sigmoid or Gaussian) of fishing mortality. The highest specificity against sigmoid (trawl-like) size selection was seen from inverse fishing pressure and the large fish indicator, but for Gaussian size selection, the large species indicator was most specific. Biomass, mean trophic level of the community and of the catch, and fishing in balance had the lowest specificity against both size selectivities. Length-based indicators weighted by biomass, rather than abundance, were more sensitive and specific to fishing pressure. Most indicators showed a greater response to sigmoid than Gaussian size selection. Indicators were generally more sensitive at low levels of effort because of nonlinear sensitivity in trophic cascades to fishing mortality. No single indicator emerged as superior in all respects, so given available data, multiple complementary indicators are recommended for community monitoring in the ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1079
Number of pages15
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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