Between weight and they, is a relative adverb omitted? The sentence structure eludes me.
Evolution works to maximize the number of descendants that an animal leaves behind. Where the risk of death from fishing increases as an animal grows, evolution favors those that grow slowly, mature younger and smaller, and reproduce earlier. This is exactly what we now see in the wild. Cod in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence begin to reproduce at around four today; forty years ago they had to wait until six or seven to reach maturity. Sole in the North Sea mature at half the body weight they did in 1950.