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Human 'Superpredator' Hunting And Fishing Methods Are Unsustainable: Study

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A new study found that humans hunt and fish for adult preys, which are the primary source of continuous species reproduction, at a much higher rate than other non-human species, thus making them "super predators."

Humans have unique behavior and influence than other predators in terms of catching preys. Many factors have affected such divergence; examples of which are geographic extensions, taking advantage of meek prey, advanced hunting technologies and population expansion, among many others. These factors have resulted in the decline and extensive modifications of ecosystems, evolution and the food web networks both of marine and terrestrial species.

The concept of sustainable exploitation practiced by humans targets the changes in prey population and how much humans are able to benefit from hunting activities; however, the behavior exhibited by humans as predators are most often overlooked. With this, a group of scientists from the University of Victoria, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Hakai Institute in Canada performed a study to find out the difference in the patterns of catching the same prey between humans and other marine and terrestrial species. The researchers wanted to find out if humans, who exhibit extreme impacts to the ecosystems, also possess the same extreme predatory behaviors - something that is quite divergent to the notion of sustainable exploitation.

The researchers conducted a global survey that involved about 400 marine species that thrive on each and every continent, except in Antarctica.

The findings of the investigation, published in the journal Science, show that humans tend to kill adult preys that are at the peak of their reproductive health, while the animal predators most often go after the young and meek preys. The authors specifically found that humans kill adult preys, particularly fish, 14 times more than other hunter animals.

The combination of intelligence and available tools that humans possess made them exhibit "unnatural, unusual predator behavior," says Chris Darimont, lead author and a conservation scientist at the University of Victoria. Humans have sparked the change in hunting rules, making it appear that wildlife survival is all about the size, he added.

The authors then recommend that transformation necessitates posing limitations to humans in such a way that economic, cultural and institutional modifications are as rampant as the human advantages that exist over other predators. Suggested interventions to achieve such goal include devising catch-share programs, supporting fisheries groups and inculcating tolerance for carnivores. Finally, the researchers think that redefining sustainable exploitation so that it focuses, not only on human yields but also on predator behaviors, will be of high value.

Photo: Derzsi Elekes Andor | Wikimedia Commons

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