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Plenty more than fish in the sea

Eva Plaganyi presented future scenarios for fisheries researchers during the Tuesday plenary talk at the ASC, calling for the inclusion of socio-ecological aspects in work.
Published: 23 September 2016

​​​Plaganyi, principal research scientist at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, looked into the development of fisheries research and the introduction of the ecosystem approach. She suggested the next step on the fishery toolbox timeline is to upload ourselves into our models and equations as part of socio-ecological models.

 "We humans are no longer simply observers and users of natural systems, but integrated components of it. Our science is constantly evolving in a world that is changing rapidly both in terms of climate impacts and human influences and drivers, and hence I'm arguing that a fundamental shift is necessary in how we do our science," she stated.

Ecology and the human dimension are increasingly intertwined, and the sustainable management of the future ocean will increasingly depend on how we manage these interactions, Plaganyi explained.

"Perhaps the ocean's SOS is calling for a sense of self, understanding our role as humans in the system," she suggested. "Complementing sustainable management of natural resources with sustainable self-management is key to future sustainability."

Triple bottom line

In her work as a fisheries scientist Plaganyi encountered situations where it became evident that we need to understand not just what takes place in marine ecosystems and amongst organisms but also the chains of interaction between humans and systems of governance.

 "We need to explore all three dimensions: the socio-cultural, the biological, and the economic. That's the triple bottom line."

How does Australia do it?

Plaganyi is part of an interdisciplinary team at CSIRO in Australia, working alongside economists and social scientists, building a mutual understanding of issues. The team also works closely with stakeholders.

"We share our scientific tools with fishers. It's very important to have good communications about your science with stakeholders," she stated.

Plaganyi also pointed out the importance of considering and identifying critical elements in the supply chain, mapping the complete journey from capture to consumer.

"It is vital to safeguard the ongoing supply of seafood and to show how the seafood sector should adjust its practices to maintain or enhance production. Our work has shown that the connections and flows in the supply chain system can be depicted in a similar way to methods for analysing food webs and pinpointing key species."

Plaganyi and her team use the MICE model of intermediate complexity for ecosystem assessments for targeted management questions on key species and key interactions.

The team also uses a Sense of Place Index (SoPI) to capture feedback in a marine socio ecological systems (SES) model. The psychological characteristics captured by the sense of place concept have important, practical implications for predicting the long-term dynamics of managed resources.

Paradigm shift in the making

So, what is Plaganyi's answer to the question of her talk title? Are ecosystem approaches driving a paradigm shift in fisheries science?

"We are no longer simply observers and users of natural systems, but integrated components of it. Hence ecosystem approaches are driving a paradigm shift away from the more traditional focus on species as biological and mathematical entities that are not connected to each other or to humans in complex and dynamic ways. Only by understanding these interactions and the efficacy of management levers that ecosystem approaches reveal, can we hope to succeed in sustainable management of the oceans into the future."

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Eva with SCICOM member Jorn Schmidt

​Eva wi​th SCICOM member and chair of the Strategic Initiative on the human dimension (SIHD)​​​ Jorn Schmidt

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Plenty more than fish in the sea

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