The way in which hunting practices have evolved is unsustainable and goes against natural principles, according to the scientists behind a new study.

Researchers have found that long-held beliefs about conservation may actually be doing more harm than good. Fishermen have long been told to throw back small specimens, and hunters encouraged to target the largest animals, but the authors of this latest study contradict those assertions, according to The Associated Press.

Study Says Human Hunting And Fishing Is Unsustainable

Current conservation practices may harm animal populations

The results of the study were published this Thursday in the journal Science. Scientists compared human practices to other predators to analyze their kills, and concluded that while other animals target the young, small and weak, humans tend to kill larger, more mature animals.

In fact, humans kill up to 14 times more adult prey than other predators, and human fishing methods are the most unnatural. Due to modern technology and intelligence, humans now demonstrate “rather unnatural, unusual predator behavior,” according to study lead author Chris Darimont, a conservation scientist at the University of Victoria in Canada.

Human hunting techniques alter the rules of the game from survival of the fittest to survival of the smallest, he says. Humans have become “super predators” that distort evolution.

Fishing of Atlantic cod shows human impact

Despite short-term benefits of taking larger prey, the practice has disastrous long-term consequences. The demise of Atlantic cod is one example. The human practice of fishing larger cod means that the fish have now evolved to breed earlier in their lifetime.

Conservation expert Stuart Pimm of Duke University praised the study, although he was not part of it. “We ought to be harvesting animals that are about to die from other causes,” he said.

However Bill Fox, vice president of fisheries at the World Wildlife Fund, believes that a mixture of juveniles and adults should be fished, rather than just juveniles.

Darimont admits that he hunts deer and fishes for salmon, and said that he targets younger prey because they are more tasty. His preference for smaller animals is not shared by the majority of hunters because humans have evolved to prefer large animals to impress their peers.