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Overfishing is, in the simplest terms, the harvest of more fish from a population than it can bear. Yet, the word takes on multiple meanings in practice and the causes and consequences of, and alternatives to, overfishing are even more complicated.

At a first level of approximation, two kinds of overfishing are possible. Recruitment overfishing refers to the harvest of a species such that its ability to reproduce itself back to its preharvest condition is compromised. This can take the form of destroying broodstock directly or harvesting organisms before they have a chance to reproduce at all. Recruitment overfishing can result in less catches over time and, if sufficiently serious, to crashes in abundance, but this can be temporarily masked by the delay of several ...

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