Events & Media

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



"Withering syndrome and the future of
Southern California abalone fisheries"

Tal Ben-Horin
PhD candidate
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1424

"Tal is applying classical ideas from epidemiology into the management of an iconic California fishery. This is a great opportunity to learn more about a local environmental problem and discuss innovative policy solutions." —Hunter Lenihan, host

Surveillance of disease outbreaks in marine fisheries has increased over the past three decades, but we are only beginning to unravel the complex interactions between fishing and disease. By driving host populations below thresholds for disease transmission, fishing could support a number of desirable outcomes, including the extirpation, or fishing out, of pathogens. I will present results from laboratory experiments and field observations evaluating the susceptibility of abalone populations to withering syndrome (WS), a fatal wasting disease implicated in the dramatic decline and closure of the multi-species Southern California abalone fishery. The susceptibility of abalone populations to WS varies considerably by species, and for a number of apparently resistant species, promising signs of recovery have been observed throughout the Southern California Bight since the fishery closure. These observations have motivated a proposal to re-open a small-scale experimental abalone fishery. I apply the concept of fishing out disease to the proposed abalone fishery, and show how limited harvest cannot only provide fishery benefits but also enhance recovery in the face of disease.

Tal Ben-Horin is a PhD candidate at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. His research interests are in the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease in human and wildlife populations, and the role of disease in wildlife conservation. His dissertation work investigates recent disease outbreaks in California abalones (Haliotis spp.) resulting from a novel bacterial pathogen. He integrates laboratory experiments, field observations, and spatially explicit modeling to explore theoretical mechanisms of disease-induced extinction and the influence of fishing on the spread of disease. Prior to pursuing his PhD, Tal received a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont and a Master of Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School.

NOTE: Research colloquia are hosted by Bren faculty members and are generally high-level talks about research in a particular area of environmental science and management.


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