Banning Fisheries Discards Abruptly Has a Negative Impact on the Population Dynamics of Charismatic Marine Megafauna

Esther N. Fondo, Milani Chaloupka, Johanna J. Heymans, Greg A. Skilleter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Food subsidies have the potential to modify ecosystems and affect the provision of goods and services. Predictable Anthropogenic Food Subsidies (PAFS) modify ecosystems by altering ecological processes and food webs. The global concern over the effects of PAFS in ecosystems has led to development of environmental policies aimed at curbing the production or ultimately banning of PAFS. However, the effects of reducing or banning PAFS are not known. We explore the consequences of PAFS removal in a marine ecosystem under two scenarios: 1) gradual reduction, or 2) an abrupt ban, using a mass balance model to test these hypotheses–The reduction or loss of PAFS will: i) modify trophic levels and food webs through effects on foraging by opportunistic species, ii) increase the resilience of opportunistic species to food shortages, and iii) modify predator–prey interactions through shifts in prey consumption. We found that PAFS lower the trophic levels of opportunistic scavengers and increase their food pathways. Scavengers are able to switch prey when PAFS are reduced gradually but they decline when PAFS are abruptly banned. PAFS reduction to a certain minimal level causes a drop in the ecosystem’s stability. We recommend gradual reduction of PAFS to a minimal level that would maintain the ecosystem’s stability and allow species exploiting PAFS to habituate to the food subsidy reduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2015

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