The tenets of ecosystem-based management (EBM) now occupy centre stage in our efforts to rebuild fish stocks and sustainably exploit marine ecosystems. Indeed, over the last several decades EBM has evolved from a vague principle to a central paradigm underlying living marine resource policy around the globe. EBM differs from conventional resource management in that it defines management strategies accounting for an entire system, not simply isolated components of the ecosystem. Consequently, implementing EBM requires the development of new quantitative approaches.
Increasingly, fisheries ecosystem scientists and managers are turning to multimodel inference to fill the needs of EBM. Broadly defined, multimodel inference is the application of multiple quantitative representations of a system to improve the understanding of the system and to evaluate the uncertainty of model predictions in a management context. The models used may vary only slightly, with different initial parameters or multiple values for given parameters being used, or with different structural configurations of parts of the model. Alternatively, multiple models may have very different scopes, assumptions, structures, and parameters. Using multiple models allows researchers to address consequences of uncertainty in initial parameters and model structure for predictions of ecosystem state and thus provide more robust management advice or highlight processes that demand further investigations.
A range of approaches, from qualitative models to coupled models to complex ensemble modeling, have been used in oceanography and climatology for decades but multimodel inference for fisheries ecosystem modeling is in its early stages of development. Multimodel approaches hold great promise for strategic planning frameworks, such as integrated ecosystem assessments and ecosystem-based fisheries management, tourism, spatial planning, etc., as well as tactical ecosystem approaches to single species management, but a number of challenges remain. This session will explore the practical use of multimodel approaches in solving pressing management and policy issues, identify challenges in ecological multimodel inference, and bring together marine scientists from different disciplines to discuss the development and application of multimodel inference in marine ecological and fisheries contexts.
The main focus of this session is on improving ecosystem-based fisheries management and integrated ecosystem assessments. However, experience collected in the social sciences, oceanography, climatology, or meteorology are also appreciated. Presentations that highlight the use of the following methods and concepts are welcome: