Remaining questions in the case for balanced harvesting

Matthew G Burgess, Florian K Diekert, Nis Sand Jacobsen, Ken Haste Andersen, Steven D. Gaines

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Balanced harvesting – harvesting all species and sizes in an ecosystem in proportion to their productivity – is a fisheries management strategy that has been suggested recently to increase yields, while reducing overall ecosystem impact. However, some aspects of balanced harvesting are controversial, including its call for extensive harvesting of juveniles and forage fish. Balanced harvesting also calls for targeting species and size-classes that are not currently marketable, possibly at a significant economic cost. Some have argued that this cost is outweighed by the ecological benefits of maintaining the ecosystem size and trophic structures and by the benefits of extra yield for food security. There is broad consensus that balanced harvesting would require major changes to fishery management institutions and consumer behaviour, and it is unclear to what extent it is physically possible with current technologies. For this reason, we argue that steps to implement balanced
harvesting are difficult to justify until the case for it is more clearly resolved. We
outline some of the pivotal questions that must be answered to make a convincing case for or against balanced harvesting, many of which can be answered
Original languageEnglish
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1216-1226
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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