THe PHYSFISH PROJECT

There is increasing evidence that intense commercial fishing pressure can not only reduce fish stocks but can also cause evolutionary changes to fish populations. However, the mechanisms which underlie these changes remain unknown. 

This research project - funded by the European Research Council and undertaken by researchers at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow - investigates the role of animal physiology in fisheries induced evolution. Within a given species, variation in physiological traits among individuals – and especially those related to energy balance (e.g. metabolic rate) and swimming performance (e.g. aerobic scope) – could make some fish more vulnerable to capture or more likely to suffer mortality after discard. Selection on these traits could produce major shifts in the fundamental structure and function of fish in response to fishing pressure that are yet to be considered but which could influence population resiliency, geographic distributions, and responses to environmental change.

Starting in May 2015 and lasting until May 2020, this project combines innovative approaches in the laboratory and in the wild to address three main goals:

  1. To examine whether physiological traits make some individuals more vulnerable to commercial fishing gears, and whether the environment modulates such effects
  2. To investigate the extent to which physiological traits influence recovery and survival after escape from fishing gear or discard
  3. To determine whether selection on vulnerability generates changes in physiological traits that reduce population resiliency or erode the ability to cope with environmental change.