For quite some time now it has been commonplace in the fisheries sciences to acknowledge that people matter and that human behaviour is a key source of uncertainty in predicting fisheries management outcomes. Failure to understand resource users' potential responses to management measures poses a significant risk of perverse and unintended consequences. Nevertheless, the effect of resource user's behavioural responses on the success of managing the oceans is often overlooked by policymakers. This can sometimes lead to the wrong management tool being implemented that provides inadequate or counterproductive incentives to achieve sustainable marine resource use.
In this talk I will present some of the empirical evidence for unintended consequences in fisheries management as reported in a wide variety of contexts. For instance, some recent finding indicate fisheries management intended to improve productivity and economies of scale — may have inadvertently reduced the social acceptability of the fishing industry resulting in a loss of social licence. Unintended consequences that have flowed from fish export or import bans imposed to improve sustainability (and for certification reasons) may spread well beyond the fishers and can have important gender implications. I will also discuss some of the more well-known examples such as the loss in indigenous participation after quota system introduction, the negative impact on crew and new entrants after quota introduction (with potential environmental stewardship implications), effort displacement after MPA establishment with unpredictable environmental outcomes, and bycatch reduction policies that lead to cross jurisdictional environmental damage.
I will explore methods and approaches by which we might become better at anticipating and pre-empting unintended consequences, such as by tapping into the cognitive sciences. I will touch on topics such as how improved understanding and modelling of resource users, the fleets, (mix of) target species, and the environment, and the sometimes complex relationship between them, may improve our ability to anticipate responses to management. I will also look into the role of proactive and consultative fisheries management within a connected system of institutions. I will draw on a range of fisheries examples embedded in their specific socio-ecological systems to underscore the importance of understanding the diverse and influential role of decision making uncertainties.
Dr Ingrid van Putten is a research scientist with the ecosystems modelling team at the CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, in Hobart, Australia. She is also a member of the IMBER Scientific Steering Committee and Human Dimensions Working Groups.