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IJMS Editor’s Choice – strategizing for complexity

A selected Editor’s Choice piece from the latest issue of the ICES Journal of Marine Science is now available. This month, read about strategic decision-making and understanding, quantifying and using the associated trade-offs in a complex world.
Published: 13 November 2015

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​10-15 years ago it was not possible to evaluate proposed fisheries management options given multiple objectives. Now, with the development of Management Strategy Evaluations (MSEs), decision makers can be confronted from results of MSEs that examine the implications of choices of harvest control rules, assessment methods, and monitoring regimes in the context of objectives related to targeted fishing and conservation of target species, as well as those related to minimizing impacts on habitat, threatened species, and fishing communities. The increased sophistication of MSEs means that decision-makers could be confronted with an almost insurmountable of information.

The solution to this potential ‘information pollution’ is that the scientific analysts developing and implementing MSEs must work with stakeholders and decision-makers to ensure they are correctly focused on the problems at hand, and the information provided to the decision-makers easily highlights the trade-offs among the available options. The first step in any MSE is therefore to clarify the objectives of the decision-makers, and design the MSE so that it can make predictions relative to those objectives. The selection of appropriate model outputs (performance measures) should relate directly to the objectives, and the number of such outputs should be as small as possible to simplify the decision process. 

Based on a set of case studies, including the management of commercial whaling, sardine off the west coast of the US, and prawns off northern Australia, this study highlights the wide range of performance measures that have been reported in MSEs; also, that these are ideally selected in conjunction with stakeholder communities and decision-makers. It also summarizes a range of ways to represent these measures to help decision-makers identify the advantages and disadvantages of each candidate option given the objectives. It outlines ways to select among management options given multiple objectives, and highlights in particular the benefits and costs associated with having minimum performance standards related to one or more of the objectives.​​​

The study thus provides current ‘best practices’ for how to provide decision-makers with information to select among management options, and also highlights future directions and challenges for those providing scientific support for decision making.

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Purse seining for sardine off the US west coast; photo Mike Okoniewski.

​Purse seining for sardine off the US west coast; photo - Mike Okoniewski.​

​​Article title: Strategic Management Decision Making in a Complex World: Quantifying, Understanding and Using Trade-offs

Author: André E. Punt​
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IJMS Editor’s Choice – strategizing for complexity

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