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Coupled economic-ecological models for ecosystem-based fishery management: Exploration of trade-offs between model complexity and management needs

International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade
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  • Biology
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Literature


Ecosystem based fishery management has moved beyond rhetorical statements calling for a more holistic approach to resource management, to implementing decisions on resource use that are compatible with goals of maintaining ecosystem health and resilience. Coupled economic-ecological models are a primary tool for informing these decisions. Recognizing the importance of these models, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) formed a Study Group on Integration of Economics, Stock Assessment and Fisheries Management (SGIMM) to explore alternative modelling approaches that bring the multiple disciplines of economics, ecology, and stock assessment into integrated ecosystem models. The theme session was designed to be an extension of a series of workshops and theme sessions organized by the SGIMM, but highlighted the economic component of coupled models. Although economic and ecological systems are inherently complex, models are abstractions of these systems incorporating varying levels of complexity depending on available data and the management issues to be addressed. The objective of this special session was to assess the pros and cons of increasing model complexity to incorporate linkages between ecosystem components and processes. While more complex ecosystem models may provide greater insight into how management decisions and human actions propagate through the ecosystem and impact the value of ecosystem services, the resources and information required to develop and parameterize them is greater and these models tend to require trade-offs such as the inability to quantify uncertainty or model human behaviour as accurately as can be done with models of individual fisheries. The theme session was organized as a moderated panel format representing a progression of economic-ecological models from less to increasingly complex. The panel was selected to represent a range of models from fully integrated, highly detailed and dynamic economic-ecological models such as Atlantis to models that may be less detailed or not fully dynamic or integrated. The special session focused primarily on management issues that are of a longer term strategic nature such as the implications of climate change, fundamental regime change, or the role of forage species in an ecosystem. Each panellist provided an overview of their model including the management questions the model was designed to address, the data and time requirements, as well as any lessons learned. The panellist presentations were followed by an open discussion among the panellists and the audience. The abstracts for each of the panellist presentation are provided below followed by a summary of the issues raised during the moderated discussion session

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