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Mixed-fishery or ecosystem conundrum? Multispecies considerations inform thinking on long-term management of North Sea demersal stocks

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Signatories of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development declaration committed to maintain or restore fish stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), a goal that has been challenged on a number of grounds. The European Commission has stated an objective to manage fisheries (independently) to achieve MSY by 2015, which has catalysed the Regional Advisory Councils’ (RACs) thinking on MSY and how it relates to their goal of developing long-term management plans. This study uses an ecosystem model of the North Sea to investigate questions relating to MSY in the context of mixed demersal fisheries for cod, haddock, and whiting. Results suggest that it is not possible to simultaneously achieve yields corresponding to MSYs predicted from single-species assessments and that the contradictory response of whiting is central to the trade-offs in yield and value for mixed demersal fisheries. Incompatibility between mixed-fishery and ecosystem-scale considerations exemplifies the difficult conceptual and practical challenges faced when moving toward an ecosystem approach.

Les signataires de la déclaration du Sommet mondial sur le développement durable de 2002 se sont engagés à maintenir ou restaurer les stocks de poissons aux densités qui permettent de produire le rendement maximal durable (« MSY »), un objectif qui a été critiqué pour plusieurs raisons. La Commission européenne a mis de l’avant un objectif pour gérer les pêches (indépendamment) de manière à atteindre le MSY pour 2015, ce qui a catalysé la réflexion des Conseils consultatifs régionaux (RAC) sur le MSY et ses conséquences sur leur but de réaliser des plans de gestion à long terme. Notre étude utilise un modèle écosystémique de la mer du Nord pour examiner les questions relatives au MSY dans le cas des pêches benthiques mixtes de morues, d’aiglefins et de merlans. Nos résultats indiquent qu’il n’est pas possible d’obtenir simultanément les rendements correspondant aux MSY prédits par les évaluations faites sur les espèces individuelles et que les réactions contradictoires du merlan sont au centre des compromis dans le rendement et la valeur des pêches commerciales mixtes de poissons benthiques. L’incompatibilité entre les considérations reliées aux pêches mixtes et celles obtenues à l’échelle des écosystèmes met en évidence les difficiles défis conceptuels et pratiques qui surgissent lorsqu’on adopte une approche écosystémique.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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