Abstract

The Isostichopus fuscus fishery in Mexico was heavily exploited until 1994, when it was closed due to overfishing. However, no information existed on the status of the populations. The fishery was evaluated through an age structured simulation model, and according to our analysis of the stock, the fishery can be feasible and sustainable as long as fishing mortality and age of first catch are optimized. In order to evaluate exploitation strategies, several scenarios were simulated considering different combinations of fishing intensities and ages of first catch. Input data for the model included population parameters, commercial catch and costs and benefits of the fishing operations. Yield production was strongly influenced by the fishing pressure and by the age of first capture. When the first one increased, significant decreases in yield and profits occurred. The best exploitation strategy was with these parameters: fishing mortality level F= 0.15, age at first capture tc= 4 years, and yielding of ~ 430 tons. However, since the species reproduces for the first time at 5 years, extracting younger specimens would collapse the population. The critical value of fishing mortality was detected at Fc= 0.25. If exceeded, the population tends to exhaustion and the fishery is no longer profitable. In conclusion, I. fuscus fishery is highly vulnerable to overfishing and age of catch. It must be taken into account that the management policies should be considered as pilot and used on a regional basis. Continuous monitoring of the stock, control of the number of fishing licenses and extracting only specimens 5 yeasr-old and older (around 20 cm and >400 g), will allow the populations to recover from fishing activities. Rev. Biol. Trop. 53(Suppl. 3): 357-366. Epub 2006 Jan 30.
Keywords: Isostichopus fuscus, population dynamics, fisheries simulation, harvesting strategies, Gulf of California, México