Frid et. al. tackle uncertainty

by Sheril Kirshenbaum

Frid, C., O. O. A. L. Paramor, C. L. Scott. “Ecosystem-based management of fisheries: is science limiting?.” ICES Journal of Marine Science 63: 1567-1572

Chris Frid et. al. do a good job in this article of summarizing the state of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) by pointing out challenges, limitations, and new opportunities.  They define the ecosystem approach as one promoting conservation and equitable, sustainable management of land, water, and living resources by relying on scientific understanding of ecosystem structure, processes, functions, and interactions (including humans).  Frid et. al. recognize that ecosystems cut across traditional management sectors which leads to their review of why this approach is inherently difficult and complex.  This paper considers how science contributes to the wider fisheries management agenda of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD; UN, 1992) and EBM in general.

Fishing impacts ecosystems in many ways and only some of which are addressed in current management practices.  The authors touch on the many shortcomings of applying EBM in practice.  They term these “knowledge gaps” meaning areas where there remains a great deal of uncertainty and limited understanding.  Examples include the way current management plans do not address climate effects, hydrography, and other external forces.  Information problems arise because we do not completely understand how these processes drive fish stock dynamics.  Additionally, the optimal number and spatial distribution of protected areas is difficult to determine due to the dynamic nature of marine systems.  Further, it is agreed upon that we need to protect genetic diversity, but difficult to come up with appropriate measures by which to accomplish this.  Finally, we cannot predict with certainty how fishers will respond to management measures.  The big overarching question posed by the authors is how we may incorporate uncertainty into policy.

Frid et. al. suggest social and political colleagues must address the aforementioned barriers in current administrative frameworks by calling for joint natural and social science initiatives.  Although effort reduction and closed areas are the most effective measures to benefit fisheries and habitat features, they are incomplete alone.  EBM is participatory and those in the decision making process must understand that there will be no single source or consensus on the best practice.  The principle conclusion is that a wider range of natural and social sciences will be necessary to inform policy.


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