University Of Tasmania

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Identifying historical baseline at the onset of exploitation to improve understanding of fishing impacts

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 22:08 authored by Camilla NovaglioCamilla Novaglio, Smith, ADM, Stewart FrusherStewart Frusher, Ferretti, F

  1. Marine communities have long been impacted by human activities, but the quantification of human‐driven changes often relies on recent data. This is because historical data on fish populations are lacking and are challenging to include in contemporary stock and ecological assessments. As a result, the impacts of early fishing pressure on marine communities are generally poorly documented worldwide.
  2. Marine communities of Southeast Australia have a relatively short history of exploitation compared with other temperate systems and were sampled before and after the onset of commercial fishing. As such, they provide a rare opportunity to identify historical baselines and to understand ecological changes after the onset of commercial exploitation.
  3. This study compares survey data collected around Tasmania, Southeast Australia, in 1909–1910 with data from the 1980s. The period considered precedes the establishment of a trawl fishery in Southeast Australia in 1915, of other important commercial fisheries in Tasmania, and of a fisheries data collection programme in 1984. Nominal catch rates are used to examine changes across all families of demersal fish recorded in catches and generalized linear models are used to estimate and compare standardized indices of abundance between the 1909–1910 and 1980s data for key commercial families.
  4. Results show significant, and thus far unreported, fishing‐induced changes in marine communities after the establishment of commercial fishing in the region. Changes mostly relate to shifts in catch composition and steep declines in the abundance of the main commercial families.
  5. This study illustrates a method for analysing low‐quality historical catch data and provides estimates of pre‐commercial fishing abundance that can be included in stock and ecological assessments. More broadly, this study demonstrates the significant role of early fishing in shaping marine communities and increases our understanding about general patterns of exploitation that have been difficult to identify with longer but less detailed fishing histories.


Publication title

Aquatic Conservation








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Place of publication

The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, England, W Sussex, Po19 8Sq

Rights statement

© 2020 Commonwealth of Australia.Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystem © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified

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