mortality rates
Mortality rates are critical for determining the abundance of fish populations and the effects of harvesting strategies on yield and spawning potential from a stock. Fish abundance is a balance between the factors that act to increase the stock (births) and factors that decrease population numbers (deaths). When births exceed deaths, the stock increases, and vice-versa. The stock is brought into stability when the number of recruits entering the fishery balances the number of deaths. Fishery managers can control deaths caused by fishing by manipulating the sizes of fish vulnerable to the gear. Fishing mortality can be changed through indirect methods, such as regulating mesh size to make fish of certain ages less vulnerable to the gear. Direct control measures, such as catch quotas or effort limits, determine the rate of fishing mortality on the vulnerable sizes. The total number of births is determined by the abundance of breeders in the population the spawning stock which can also be manipulated by managers.
Mortality occurs at all life stages of the population. Depending on the species, mortalities suffered from the egg to larval stages are usually very high, less so from the larval to juvenile stage. In young fish, death can occur from several causes: starvation, predation, or disease. If fish survive their first year, these natural causes of death usually decline dramatically, and in many cases, fishing becomes the dominant source of mortality. Pollution may also add to the death rate of the population. Generally, young fish are more vulnerable to pollution mortalities than are older fish.
Knowing the sources and levels of mortalities affecting fish populations is a critical ingredient of forecasting both landings and spawning stock sizes, and in evaluating the changes in populations that may be induced by regulations such as minimum mesh sizes, minimum fish lengths, quotas, effort limits, and area closures. The rate at which the stock is harvested is usually estimated by calculating the abundance of a cohort or year class over successive years to determine how rapidly it is declining. The total mortality of the population is the sum of deaths due to both natural and fishing-related causes.
The fishing mortality rate (F) on each age group of a stock is determined by two factors: (1) the proportion of that age group that is big enough to be captured by the gear (usually termed the partial recruitment of each age), and (2) the overall amount of fishing effort on the stock. At intermediate stock abundance levels, the relationship between effort and F is direct. A doubling of effort translates into a doubling of the fishing mortality rate. At very low or very high stock sizes (when the stock is either hard to locate or unavoidable), the relation between effort and F may change.

Fisheries — dictionary. . 2004.

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