Theme session F

Integrated ecosystem assessment and decision support to advance ecosystem-based fisheries management

Monday 19 September 15:00—19:00 in Omega 1
Tuesday 20 September 10:00—16:30 in Omega 1
John Pope (UK)
Lena Bergström (Sweden) 
Melania Borit (Norway)​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Contact conveners​​​​​​

Rapporteurs: Charlotte Weber (Norway) M. Robin Anderson (Canada) David Reid  (Ireland)​

Ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM) is concerned with sustainable ecosystems and human activities, particularly fisheries. Ecosystems and fisheries are typically complex so fisheries administrators and stakeholders need to make difficult trade-offs between a number of possibly conflicting objectives. These require both short and long term considerations of consequences for fish stocks and the wider ecosystem they inhabit, the economic and social impacts on the fishing industry, and realistic prospects that existing and proposed regulations will lead to compliance rather than to circumvention. Successful EBFM will ultimately require that this entire advice stream is integrated. Initially though, this integration needs to include:

  • how ecosystems and their interaction with fish stocks are assessed to explain how they might respond to fishing and other anthropogenic drivers
  • how the various ecological, economic, and social tradeoffs implicit in regulating human activity can be balanced
  • how management can best work with the fishing industry to encourage it to be a beneficial and compliant component of the whole ecosystem

There will be three major strands to the theme session:

​Integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA)
IEAs, now one of the cornerstones of the ICES strategic plan, can take many forms. These include:

  • Integrated Trend Analysis (ITA) using time series across an ecosystem to identify common patterns and key variables. These have the advantage of working with good empirical time series, but are limited by data availablity.
  • Approaches that  include qualitative information where we are less restricted by data vailability but require the use of expert judgment which can reduce the credibility of the analysis.
  • Approaches like Bayesian Belief Networks which can use both types of information but are computationally expensive and probably only include a limited number of components.


Any approach has its pros and cons and arguably the best practice is to utilize several in a complimentary fashion. They should also be able to support advice that allows operational decisions to be made by local, national, and international authorities as well as a wide range of stakeholder groups.

Integrated Decision Support
In the past, decision makers have often been supported by separate disciplinary advice streams on the consequences of the management decision they must reach. This can often emphasize complications rather than provide a simple, useable overview. In turn, this makes it difficult for managers and stakeholders to form a clear view of the trade-offs between their objectives. Integrated Decision Support seeks to simplify and unify advice streams to help address this problem ​

Effective integrated management
Managing human activities in this context is always going to be complex and difficult  We need to build trust and agreement between the parties involved, and we need to avoid regulation that leads to unexpected or even the opposite outcomes to those we hoped for. Under these circumstances, an integrated understanding of the fine mechanisms governing fishers' behaviour in relation to the regulative processes is needed, to the benefit of decision makers, fishing industry and the environment alike.

The aim of this session is to bring together practitioners and stakeholders in EBFM, both within and beyond ICES to allow a wide exchange of views, knowledge, and skills. It will allow stakeholders to see how the EBFM approaches work, and to compare and contrast them for their own purposes. The session is intended to cover all aspects of making EBFM operational, from data assembly to knowledge, choices of human activities, pressures and ecosystem component, pros and cons of different EBFM approaches, what stakeholders want from EBFM, and what they can provide. Worked examples of where EBFM has been used in advice, at any level of organization, would be useful, as would the provision of examples of pro-active advice. We welcome contributions linked to any of the ideas above, but in particular related to the following topics:

  • Assesment
    • Carrying out the data collection and analysis for IEA – problems encountered, lessons learned, and how that changed the approach
    • Worked examples of IEA and particularly those involving stakeholder inputs
    • Comparisons between different types of IEA where they have been carried out in the same areas
  • Decision Support
    • Ways of integrating multidisciplinary advice.
    • Simplifying particular advice streams into their essence or providing modules that might be readily integrated.
    • Results of collaborations with stakeholders designed to create viable solutions to their decision support needs.
  • Effective Management
    • Analysis of fishers' behaviour under different regulatory regimes
    • Social norms and self-organisation of fishers and their influence on trust, culture, and fishers' behaviour
    • Public understanding of fisheries and fisheries management
    • Simulations of all aspects of fisheries management but particularly of social science aspects, which would particularly benefit from greater quantification


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Theme session F

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