Annual must-read papers

My personal selection of the must-read fisheries papers published each year, loosely based on citation counts, novelty, generality, and applicability. They are ordered from most to least important. Papers are subjectively chosen, biased towards papers published in fields I am interested in (marine fisheries), more likely to be papers I have read, and to include my own papers*.

Must-read papers in 2019
1. Arlinghaus et al. 2019 Governing the recreational dimension of global fisheries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 116:5209-5213

Must-read papers in 2018
1. Amoroso RO et al. 2018 Bottom trawl fishing footprints on the world’s continental shelvesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 115:E10275-E10282
2. Parker RWR et al. 2018 Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of world fisheries. Nature Climate Change 8:333-337
3. Watson R, Tidd A 2018 Mapping nearly a century and a half of global marine fishing: 1869–2015. Marine Policy 93:171-177
4. Kroodsma DA et al. 2018 Tracking the global footprint of fisheries. Science 359:904-908
5. Fluet-Chouinard E et al. 2018 Global hidden harvest of freshwater fish revealed by household surveys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 115:7623-7628
6. Sala E et al. 2018 The economics of fishing the high seas. Science Advances 4:eaat2504
7. Barneche DR et al. 2018 Fish reproductive-energy output increases disproportionately with body size. Science 360:642-645
8. Dureuil M et al. 2018 Elevated trawling inside protected areas undermines conservation outcomes in a global fishing hot spot. Science 362:1403-1407
9. Essington TE et al. 2018 Economic value of ecological information in ecosystem-based natural resource management depends on exploitation history. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 115:1658-1663
10. Hilborn R et al. 2018 The environmental costs of animal source foods. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16:329-335

Must-read papers in 2017
1. Gill DA et al. 2017 Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally. Nature 543:665-669
2. Hiddink et al. 2017 Global analysis of depletion and recovery of seabed biota after bottom trawling disturbance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114:8301-8306
3. Szuwalski CS et al. 2017 High fishery catches through trophic cascades in China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114:717-721
4. Birkenbach AM et al. 2017 Catch shares slow the race to fish. Nature 544:223-226
5. Cline TJ et al. 2017 Fisheries portfolio diversification and turnover buffer Alaskan fishing communities from abrupt resource and market changes. Nature Communications 8:14042
6. Pons M et al. 2017 Effects of biological, economic and management factors on tuna and billfish stock status. Fish and Fisheries 18:1-21
7. Sabo JL et al. 2017 Designing river flows to improve food security futures in the Lower Mekong Basin. Science 358:1270
8. Deines AM et al. 2017 The contribution of lakes to global inland fisheries harvest. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15:293-298 
9. Rudd MB & Branch TA 2017 Does unreported catch lead to overfishing? Fish and Fisheries 18:313-323
10. Barnett LAK et al. 2017 Old-growth fishes become scarce under fishing. Current Biology 27:2843-2848
Must-read papers in 2016
1. Lubchenco J et al. 2016 The right incentives enable ocean sustainability successes and provide hope for the future. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113:14507-14514
2. Nielsen J et al. 2016 Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus). Science 353:702-704
3. FAO 2016 The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2016. Contributing to food security and nutrition for all. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome
4. Costello C et al. 2016 Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113:5125-5129
5. Cinner et al. 2016 Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs. Nature 535:416-419
6. Pauly D & Zeller D 2016 Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining. Nature Communications 7:10244
7. Golden CD et al. 2016 Fall in fish catch threatens human health. Nature 534:317-320
8. Britten GL et al. 2016 Changing recruitment capacity in global fish stocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113:134-139
9. Duffy JE et al. 2016 Biodiversity enhances reef fish biomass and resistance to climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113:6230-6235
10. Dulvy NK et al. 2016 Ghosts of the coast: global extinction risk and conservation of sawfishes. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 26:134-153

Must-read papers in 2015
1. McCauley DJ et al. 2015 Marine defaunation: animal loss in the global ocean. Science 347:236-247
2. Essington TE et al. 2015 Fishing amplifies forage fish population collapses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112:6648-6652
3. MacNeil MA et al. 2015 Recovery potential of the world’s coral reef fishes. Nature 520:341-344
4. Plagányi ÉE et al. 2015 Crop rotations in the sea: Increasing returns and reducing risk of collapse in sea cucumber fisheries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112:6760-6765
5. Hilborn R et al. 2015 When is a fishery sustainable? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 72:1433-1441
6. Darimont CT et al. 2015 The unique ecology of human predators. Science 349:858-860
7. Watson RA et al. 2015 Marine foods sourced from farther as their use of global ocean primary production increases. Nature Communications 6:7365
8. Woodson CB & Litvin SY 2015 Ocean fronts drive marine fishery production and biogeochemical cycling. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112:1710-1715
9. Webb TJ & Mindel BL 2015 Global patterns of extinction risk in marine and non-marine systems. Current Biology 25:1-6
10. Szuwalski et al. 2015 Examining common assumptions about recruitment: a meta-analysis of recruitment dynamics for worldwide marine fisheries. Fish and Fisheries 16:633-648

Must-read papers in 2014
1. Edgar GJ et al. 2014 Global conservation outcomes depend on marine protected areas with five key features. Nature 506:216-220
2. FAO 2014 The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2014, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
3. Dulvy NK et al. 2014 Extinction risk and conservation of the worlds sharks and rays. eLife 3:e00590
4. Christensen V et al. 2014 A century of fish biomass decline in the ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 512:155-166
5. Pellisier L et al. 2014 Quaternary coral reef refugia preserved fish diversity. Science 344:1016-1019
6. Barange M et al. 2014 Impacts of climate change on marine ecosystem production in societies dependent on fisheries. Nature Climate Change 4:211-216
7. Munday PL et al. 2014 Behavioural impairment in reef fishes caused by ocean acidification at CO2 seeps. Nature Climate Change 4:487-492
8. Hixon MA et al. 2014 BOFFFFs: on the importance of conserving old-growth age structure in fishery populations. ICES Journal of Marine Science 71:2171-2185
9. Allan BJM et al. 2014 Parental effects improve escape performance of juvenile reef fish in a high-CO2 world. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281:20132179
10. Stansbury AL et al. 2014 Grey seals use anthropogenic signals from acoustic tags to locate fish: evidence from a simulated foraging task. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282:20141595

Must-read papers in 2013
1. Pinsky ML et al. 2013 Marine taxa track local climate velocities. Science 341:1239-1242
2. Cheung WWL et al. 2013 Signature of ocean warming in global fisheries catch. Nature 497:365-368
3. Neubauer P et al. 2013 Resilience and recovery of overexploited marine populations. Science 340:347-349
4. Cheung WWL et al. 2013 Shrinking of fishes exacerbates impacts of global ocean changes on marine ecosystems. Nature Climate Change 3:254-258
5. Vert-pre KA et al. 2013 Frequency and intensity of productivity regime shifts in marine fish stocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:1779-1784
6. Condon RH et al. 2013 Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:1000-1005
7. Branch TA et al. 2013 Impacts of ocean acidification on marine seafood. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28:178-186
8. Pauly D response Hilborn R & Branch TA 2013 Does catch reflect abundance? Nature 494:303-306
9. Rogers LA et al. 2013 Centennial-scale fluctuations and regional complexity characterize Pacific salmon population dynamics over the past five centuries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:1750-1755
10. Hilborn R 2013 Environmental costs of conservation victories. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:9187

Must-read papers in 2012
1. Halpern BS et al. 2012 An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature 488:615-620
2. Nilsson GE et al. 2012 Near-future carbon dioxide levels alter fish behaviour by interfering with neurotransmitter function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2:201-204
3. Puig P et al. 2012 Ploughing the deep sea floor. Nature 489:286-289
4. Costello C et al. 2012 Status and solutions for the world’s unassessed fisheries. Science 338:517-520
5. Cinner JE et al. 2012 Comanagement of coral reef social-ecological systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:5219-5222
6. Condon RH et al. 2012 Questioning the rise of gelatinous zooplankton in the worlds oceans. BioScience 62:160-169
7. Worm B & Branch TA 2012 The future of fish. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 27:594-599
8. Garcia SM et al. 2012 Reconsidering the consequences of selective fisheries. Science 335:1045-1047
9. Ricard D et al. 2012 Examining the knowledge base and status of commercially exploited marine species with the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database. Fish and Fisheries 13:380-398
10. Harrison HB et al. 2012 Larval export from marine reserves and the recruitment benefit for fish and fisheries. Current Biology 22:1023-1028

Must-read papers in 2011
1. Gutiérrez NL et al. 2011 Leadership, social capital and incentives promote successful fisheries. Nature 470:386-389
2. Cury PM et al. 2011 Global seabird response to forage fish depletion—one third for the birds. Science 334:1703-1706
3. Smith ADM et al. 2011 Impacts of fishing low-trophic level species on marine ecosystems. Science 333:1147-1150
4. Pinsky ML et al. 2011 Unexpected patterns of fisheries collapse in the world’s oceans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:8317-8322
5. Frank KT et al. 2011 Transient dynamics of an altered large marine ecosystem. Nature 477:86-89
6. Branch TA et al. 2011 Contrasting global trends in marine fishery status obtained from catches and from stock assessments. Conservation Biology 25:777-786
7. McClanahan TR et al. 2011 Critical thresholds and tangible targets for ecosystem-based management of coral reef fisheries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:17230-17233
8. Juan-Jordá MJ et al. 2011 Global population trajectories of tunas and their relatives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:20650-20655
9. Carpenter SR et al. 2011 Early warnings of regime shifts: a whole-ecosystem experiment. Science 332:1079-1082
10. Steneck RS et al. 2011 Creation of a gilded trap by the high economic value of the Maine lobster fishery. Conservation Biology 25:904-912

Must-read papers in 2010
1. Schindler DE et al. 2010 Population diversity and the portfolio effect in an exploited species. Nature 465:609-613
2. Branch TA et al. 2010 The trophic fingerprint of marine fisheries. Nature 468:431-435
3. Sethi SA et al. 2010 Fishery development patterns are driven by profit but not trophic level. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107:12163-12167
4. Munday PL et al. 2010 Replenishment of fish populations is threatened by ocean acidification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107:12930-12934
5. Utne-Palm AC et al. 2010 Trophic structure and community stability in an overfished ecosystem. Science 329:333-336
6. Cheung WWL et al. 2010 Large-scale redistribution of maximum fisheries catch potential in the global ocean under climate change. Global Change Biology 16:24-35
7. Hoegh-Guldberg O & Bruno JF 2010 The impact of climate change on the worlds marine ecosystems. Science 328:1523-1528
8. Boyce DG et al. 2010 Global phytoplankton decline over the past century. Nature 466:591-596
9. Zhou S et al. 2010 Ecosystem-based fisheries management requires a change to the selective fishing philosophy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107:9485-9489
10. Tittensor DP et al. 2010 Global patterns and predictors of marine biodiversity across taxa. Nature 466:1098-1101

Must-read papers in 2009
1. Worm B et al. 2009 Rebuilding global fisheries. Science 325:578-585
2. Munday PL et al. 2009 Ocean acidification impairs olfactory discrimination and homing ability of a marine fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:1848-1852
3. Naylor RL et al. 2009 Feeding aquaculture in an era of finite resources. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:15103-15110
4. Cheung WWL et al. 2009 Projecting global marine biodiversity impacts under climate change scenarios. Fish and Fisheries 10:235-251
5. Baum JK & Worm B 2009 Cascading top-down effects of changing oceanic predator abundances. Journal of Animal Ecology 78:699-714
6. Lester SE et al. 2009 Biological effects within no-take marine reserves: a global synthesis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 384:33-46
7. Wilson RW et al. 2009 Contribution of fish to the marine inorganic carbon cycle. Science 323:359-362
8. Planes S et al. 2009 Larval dispersal connects fish populations in a network of marine protected areas. 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:5693-5697
9. Jones GP et al. 2009 Larval retention and connectivity among populations of corals and reef fishes: history, advances and challenges. Coral Reefs 28:307-325
10. Allison EH et al. 2009 Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries. Fish and Fisheries 10:173-196

Must-read papers in 2008
1. Sandin SA et al. 2008 Baselines and degradation of coral reefs in the Northern Line Islands. PLOS ONE 3:e1548
2. Anderson CNK et al. 2008 Why fishing magnifies fluctuations in fish abundance. Nature 452:835-839
3. Halpern BS et al. 2008 A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319:948-952
4. Costello C et al. 2008 Can catch shares prevent fisheries collapse? Science 321:1678-1681
5. Jackson JBC 2008 Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105:11458-11465
6. de Mutsert K et al. 2008 Reanalyses of Gulf of Mexico fisheries data: Landings can be misleading in assessments of fisheries and fisheries ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105:2740-2744
7. Collie JS  et al. 2008 Long-term shifts in the species composition of a coastal fish community. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65:1352-1365
8. Dulvy NK et al. 2008 You can swim but you can’t hide: the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18:459-482
9. Biro PA & Post JR 2008 Rapid depletion of genotypes with fast growth and bold personality traits from harvested fish populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105:2919-2922
10. Minto C et al. 2008 Survival variability and population density in fish populations. Nature 452:344-348

Must-read papers in 2007
1. Myers RA et al. 2007 Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean. Science 315:1846-1850 
2. Pörtner HO & Knust R 2007 Climate change affects marine fishes through the oxygen limitation of thermal tolerance. Science 315:95-97
3. Kidd KA et al. 2007 Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104:8897-8901
4. Krkošek M et al. 2007 Declining wild salmon populations in relation to parasites from farm salmon. Science 318:1772-1775
5. Beddington JR et al. 2007 Current problems in the management of marine fisheries. Science 316:1713-1716
6. Almany GR et al. 2007 Local replenishment of coral reef fish populations in a marine reserve. Science 316:742-744
7. Grafton RQ et al. 2007 Economics of overexploitation revisited. Science 318:1601
8. Hilborn R 2007 Moving to sustainability by learning from successful fisheries. Ambio 36:296-303
9. Araki H et al. 2007 Genetic effects of captive breeding cause a rapid, cumulative fitness decline in the wild. Science 318:100-103
10. Hilborn R 2007 Defining success in fisheries and conflicts in objectives. Marine Policy 31:153-158

Must-read papers in 2006
1. Worm B et al. 2006 Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science 314:787-790
2. Berkes F et al. 2006 Globalization, roving bandits, and marine resources. Science 311:1557-1558
3. Essington TE et al. 2006 Fishing through marine food webs. 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 103:3171-3175
4. Mumby PJ et al. 2006 Fishing, trophic cascades, and the process of grazing on coral reefs. Science 311:98-101
5. Hsieh C-H et al. 2006 Fishing elevates variability in the abundance of exploited species. Nature 443:859-862
6. Lotze HK et al. 2006 Depletion, degradation, and recovery potential of estuaries and coastal seas. Science 312:1806-1809
7. Froese R 2006 Cube law, condition factor and weight-length relationships: history, meta-analysis and recommendations. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 22:241-253
8. Branch TA et al. 2006 Fleet dynamics and fishermen behavior: lessons for fisheries managers. 
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63:1647-1668
9. Morato T et al. 2006 Fishing down the deep. Fish and Fisheries 7:24-34 
10. Grafton RQ et al. 2006 Incentive-based approaches to sustainable fisheries. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63:699-710

Must-read papers in 2005
1. Perry AL et al. 2005 Climate change and distribution shifts in marine fishes. Science 308:1912-1915
2. Kelleher K 2005 Discards in the world’s marine fisheries. An update. FAO Fish Tech Pap 470:131pp
3. Ward RD et al. 2005 DNA barcoding Australia’s fish species. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360:1847-1857
4. Colosimo PF et al. 2005 Widespread parallel evolution in sticklebacks by repeated fixation of ectodysplasin alleles. Science 307:1928-1933
5. Evans DH et al. 2005 The multifunctional fish gill: dominant site of gas exchange, osmoregulation, acid-base regulation, and excretion of nitrogenous waste. Physiological Reviews 85:97-177
6. Frank KT et al. 2005 Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem. Science 308:1621-1623
7. Rosenberg AA et al. 2005 The history of ocean resources: modeling cod biomass using historical records. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3:84-90
8. Birkeland C & Dayton PK 2005 The importance in fishery management of leaving the big ones. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20:356-358
9. Allan JD et al. 2005 Overfishing of inland waters. BioScience 55:1041-1051
10. Hilborn R et al. 2005 Institutions, incentives and the future of fisheries. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360:47-57

*Conflict of interest statement. I was a coauthor on the following papers in the list: Rudd & Branch (2017), Barnett et al. (2017), Costello et al. (2016),  Pons et al. (2017), Szuwalski et al. (2015), Branch et al. (2013), Pauly vs. Hilborn & Branch (2013), Worm & Branch (2012), Branch et al. (2011), Branch et al. (2010), Sethi et al. (2010), Worm et al. (2009), and Branch et al. (2006). 

Compiled by Trevor A. Branch,, website:, Twitter: @TrevorABranch