US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Ben-Horin T, Lafferty KD, Bidegain G, Lenihan HS. 2016 Fishing diseased abalone to promote yield and conservation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 371: 20150211.


US government work.


Past theoretical models suggest fishing disease-impacted stocks can reduce parasite transmission, but this is a good management strategy only when the exploitation required to reduce transmission does not overfish the stock. We applied this concept to a red abalone fishery so impacted by an infectious disease (withering syndrome) that stock densities plummeted and managers closed the fishery. In addition to the non-selective fishing strategy considered by past disease- fishing models, we modelled targeting (culling) infected individuals,which is plausible in red abalone because modern diagnostic tools can determine infection without harming landed abalone and the diagnostic cost is minor relative to the catch value. The non-selective abalone fishing required to eradicate parasites exceeded thresholds for abalone sustainability, but targeting infected abalone allowed the fishery to generate yield and reduce parasite prevalence while maintaining stock densities at or above the densities attainable if the population was closed to fishing. The effect was strong enough that stock and yield increased even when the catch was one-third uninfected abalone. These results could apply to other fisheries as the diagnostic costs decline relative to catch value.