Fishery-induced selection on an Alpine whitefish: quantifying genetic and environmental effects on individual growth rate
DOI 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2008.00054.x
  1. artificial selection
  2. contemporary evolution
  3. Coregonus
  4. salmonid
  5. selection differential

Size-selective fishing, environmental changes and reproductive strategies are expected to affect life-history traits such as the individual growth rate. The relative contribution of these factors is not clear, particularly whether size-selective fishing can have a substantial impact on the genetics and hence on the evolution of individual growth rates in wild populations. We analysed a 25-year monitoring survey of an isolated population of the Alpine whitefish Coregonus palaea. We determined the selection differentials on growth rate, the actual change of growth rate over time and indicators of reproductive strategies that may potentially change over time. The selection differential can be reliably estimated in our study population because almost all the fish are harvested within their first years of life, i.e. few fish escape fishing mortality. We found a marked decline in average adult growth rate over the 25 years and a significant selection differential for adult growth, but no evidence for any linear change in reproductive strategies over time. Assuming that the heritability of growth in this whitefish corresponds to what was found in other salmonids, about a third of the observed decline in growth rate would be linked to fishery-induced evolution. Size-selective fishing seems to affect substantially the genetics of individual growth in our study population.