17 February 2009

Culling whales will not help fisheries

A new paper published on Science, has examined the scientific evidence for the assertion that ‘commercial fisheries are negatively impacted by whales in tropical breeding areas’ and that ‘reducing the number of baleen whales in the oceans would improve fisheries because whales eat fish that are caught for human consumption’.

The study, based on ecosystem models, examines the potential increase in the biomass of commercially important fish stocks that would result from a reduction in whale abundance in the Northwest African and Caribbean ecosystems.

Researchers have demonstrated that even a complete eradication of whale populations in tropical waters would not lead to any considerable increase in fish populations. “Our models unequivocally show that removing whales would not significantly increase the amount of commercially valuable fish,” said Leah Gerber, one of the authors, “Instead, we found that fishing is having a far greater bearing on the health of the fish stocks in the region...”

Daniel Pauly, a well-known fishery scientist and co-author of this paper, added “The assertion that fish supply is in peril is legitimate, but the problem is resolved with better management, not whaling”.


Gerber L.R., Morissette L., Kaschner K., Pauly D. 2009. Should whales be culled to increase fishery yield? Science 323: 880-881.

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