Fisheries management in sync with the ecosystem

Ecosystem-based is probably the most common term in modern fisheries management today. It appears in most rules, regulations and guidelines for European fisheries management. But in practice, it has proven to be very difficult to implement. European fisheries rely on the fact that politicians decide how much fish can be harvested. These decisions are based on scientific advice (mainly from ICES) that stem from numerous analyses and assessments.

But how do you assess an entire ecosystem? How do you measure how much one factor affects another when all factors are connected? And how do you make a place for such assessments in the traditional structures of current management? An ongoing regional scientific project, initiated by Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre, suggests that researchers may be closer to finding answers to these questions than previously thought. ICES is working hard to find ways to present more ecosystem-based fishery advice to decision-makers. The concept we are suggesting is a step forward in that direction. The basic idea is to find ways to include environmental, ecosystem and socio-economic components in the fishery advice”, says Maciej Tomczak, fishery researcher at Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre.

In the summer of 2014, Tomczak and Professor Christian Möllman from Hamburg University invited some 20 reputable scientists to the Askö Laboratory in the Stockholm archipelago. Their aim was to begin the development of an operational tool for more ecosystem-based advice and assessment. The project was named DEMO (Demonstration Exercise for Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Advice of Baltic Sea fish stocks). Three years later, the project has changed its name to ICES WKDEICE (ICES Workshop on Developing Integrated Advice for Baltic Sea Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management), which means it is now a part of the ICES structure and scientific community. But the vision remains the same. [...]

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