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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Simple rules can help fishery managers cope with ecological complexity

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Schooling anchovy, a common and valuable forage fish. Credit: Cathy Schwartz/University of Washington

Feb 8 2018  University of Washington read full ScienceDaily article here

…Lead author Tim Essington, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, [said], “Rather than enhancing economic benefits, the holistic approaches to natural resource management are better viewed as a way to more equitably distribute risk and reward across different users.”

…Most U.S. fisheries are managed by looking at the biology of the targeted fish species. Managers consider what the species’ expected abundance is year to year and make decisions about how many can be caught each season. That process, however, doesn’t account for ecosystem factors such as predators, habitat or temperature that also can influence a species’ abundance. This can lead to an incorrect estimate of the number of fish that can be caught sustainably….

ecosystem factors did not have a large effect on the profitability of fisheries, but they did offer helpful information about avoiding worst-case scenarios, and bolstered the argument for maintaining fisheries in “safe zones” — scenarios where there are low risks of major economic losses from something going badly in the ecosystem. The findings provide a framework for managers to identify the safe zones specific to each fishery.

“Most importantly, this study shows that one doesn’t need to know all of the ecological intricacies to have good ecological and economic outcomes,” Essington said. “It’s about simplicity, and the idea that we don’t have to have complex management systems to deal with complex ecosystems.”

Timothy E. Essington, James N. Sanchirico, Marissa L. Baskett. Economic value of ecological information in ecosystem-based natural resource management depends on exploitation history. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201716858 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1716858115

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