Efficiency of fisheries is increasing at the ecosystem level

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Managing fisheries presents trade-offs between objectives, for example yields, profits, minimizing ecosystem impact, that have to be weighed against one another. These trade-offs are compounded by interacting species and fisheries at the ecosystem level. Weighing objectives becomes increasingly challenging when managers have to consider opposing objectives from different stakeholders. An alternative to weighing incomparable and conflicting objectives is to focus on win-wins until Pareto efficiency is achieved: a state from which it is impossible to improve with respect to any objective without regressing at least one other. We investigate the ecosystem-level efficiency of fisheries in five large marine ecosystems (LMEs) with respect to yield and an aggregate measure of ecosystem impact using a novel calibration of size-based ecosystem models. We estimate that fishing patterns in three LMEs (North Sea, Barents Sea and Benguela Current) are nearly efficient with respect to long-term yield and ecosystem impact and that efficiency has improved over the last 30 years. In two LMEs (Baltic Sea and North East US Continental Shelf), fishing is inefficient and win-wins remain available. We additionally examine the efficiency of North Sea and Baltic Sea fisheries with respect to economic rent and ecosystem impact, finding both to be inefficient but steadily improving. Our results suggest the following: (i) a broad and encouraging trend towards ecosystem-level efficiency of fisheries; (ii) that ecosystem-scale win-wins, especially with respect to conservation and profits, may still be common; and (iii) single-species assessment approaches may overestimate the availability of win-wins by failing to account for trade-offs across interacting species
Original languageEnglish
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)199-211
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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