About a third of industrial fishing catches are small pelagic fishes, known as forage fish. These species, which are used to produce animal feed, fish oil supplements, and other products, play a key role in marine food webs by serving as a link between plankton and larger ocean predators. Forage fish populations naturally fluctuate in response to environmental conditions, making it difficult to measure the full impacts of industrial fishing on them or their predators, such as seabirds.
Richard Sherley will explore the relationship between forage fish extraction and population changes in the endangered African penguin. Using a combination of experimental fishing closures, animal-borne data loggers, field surveys, and statistical modeling, he will quantify population-level consequences of fisheries interactions on age-classes of penguins, which rely on different habitats and prey throughout their life cycle and thus may experience varied impacts. Sherley will also assess the potential of various interventions to conserve the species to inform more sustainable management of forage fish stocks.
Sherley hopes to determine whether links exist between forage fish extraction and penguin population change and, if so, to determine whether marine protected areas or stock-based catch limits could help offset any negative fishery effects.
He will share his findings through participation in South African scientific working groups and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission’s Penguin Specialist Group.
To learn more about Sherley, read his bio: https://sites.google.com/view/rbsherley/home.