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Are Bigger Fish Better? UMaine, GMRI Researchers Awarded Grant to Explore Fish Body Size and Resiliency

Nov 11, 2011
Fall 2011

"I'm really excited to begin our new project on the role of body size in fish communities. As a fish gets bigger, its metabolism becomes more efficient, meaning that it requires less food to support each gram of tissue in its body. This means that large individual fish may help buffer a population from fishing pressure or changes in the environment."

Andrew Pershing, Associate Professor at the University of Maine and Ecosystem Modeler at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is keenly interested in the role of big fish in the marine ecosystem and what happens when total populations and size distribution change.

Over the last century, the abundance of big fish has been greatly reduced. Pershing is leading a project to explore the relative impacts of removing different sizes of fish in populations such as Atlantic bluefin tuna and Atlantic cod. His team will build a series of computer models to look at how much food is required relative to the range of sizes in the population. Results will shine light on how changes in size influence the overall health of the population and its ability to resist external pressures such as fishing and climate change. The team will evaluate strategies to promote the resiliency of fish communities by altering how fishing effort is spread across different sizes.

Collaborators include GMRI Fishery Ecologist Graham Sherwood and UMaine/GMRI Postdoctoral Research Associate Walt Golet. The project is supported by a grant from the Lenfest Ocean Program.