Political Overfishing – Socio-economic drivers in TAC setting decisions
Translating your research into a poster presentation that captures your work while at the same time capturing your audience is not an easy task but one that Julia Hoffmann, managed to do. The aim of her poster, was to identify the influence of socio-economic factors on the Total allowable catch (TAC) decision-making process and was chosen as Best Poster by an Early Career Scientist.
Hoffmann said, "Because of ICES role in the European TAC decision-making process through the provision of scientific recommendations, the ASC was the right place to present these findings regarding drivers behind ineffective TACs."
Using Generalized Additive Models, Hoffmann and her co-authors recorded the deviation for all managed European fish stocks from 1987-2014, where European fisheries policy agreed in most cases to TACs higher than scientifically advised. She found that the unemployment rate, the number of countries fishing for a stock, and fish consumption are all highly relevant when explaining the deviation between scientifically advised and politically set TACs.
"Among others, we show that the unemployment rate has a significant positive influence on the deviation between advice and TAC. The motivation is as follows. If the unemployment rate of a country is sufficiently high, a country will put more effort into avoiding a further increase in unemployment. Employment in the fishing sector is decreasing all over Europe and people working in that sector are prone to unemployment. By arguing for high TACs, countries can increase the probability of fishermen remaining employed."
Hoffman points out that political overfishing (i.e. TACs exceeding the advice) has been and still is a serious problem in the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and it is important to understand the drivers behind that problem. She hopes that their research will raise awareness of the impact of socio-economic factors in the TAC decision-making process; further emphasizing that successful implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBMF) requires truly integrated assessments and scientific advice that addresses socio-economic driving forces more explicitly.
Hoffmann felt that her poster was interesting because of its 3D elements, allowing the audience to switch between two levels of information.The overall idea and results are provided by the 2D version of the poster, while those who wanted to go into more detail (e.g. specific variable) could use the 3D elements. "The observer is not overwhelmed by too much information but can choose the level and detail of information she or he prefers."
Best Presentation: Georg Engelhard, Cefas, UK
The large fish indicator is responsive to trawling pressure, and to reductions thereof
In Theme session P How to hit an uncertain, moving target: achieving Good Environmental Status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Georg H. Engelhard's presentation on the large fish indicator delivered a message of high relevance to ICES – that reductions in fishing effort in parts of the North Sea have had a measurable effect on the size of fishes – in a clear way that engaged the audience.
The study is directly relevant for the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which requires European countries to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in their marine waters by 2020. GES is defined through 13 Descriptors, each of which are again defined through various indicators. The large fish indicator (LFI) is one of the better known indicators of GES and is relevant for Descriptor 1 (Biodiversity) and Descriptor 4 (Foodwebs). For the North Sea, an LFI of 30% is considered the "target" and indicative of GES, i.e. a balanced ecosystem. It was known that the LFI went down significantly during the 1980s and 1990s to a minimum level in 2001 and that since then, it has shown some recovery but has not yet reached the target of 30%. The question asked by Engelhard was, whether high levels of fishing throughout the 1980s and 1990s were a cause of the declining LFI? And – of no less significance – has reduced trawling pressure contributed to the improvement of the LFI?
Engelhard's study is one of the first to link the pressure (high trawling effort during the 1980s and 1990s) through its impact (high fishing mortality) to the state (fewer large fish) and how this is reflected in the indicator (decline in the LFI during the 1980s and 1990s, matched statistically and spatially with the areas of highest trawling effort).
In addition, his study showed how changes in management resulted in a reduction in pressure. Since 2000, there has been a reduced trawling effort through the EU fleet reduction scheme. This led to reduced impact (less fishing mortality), leading to an improved state of stocks (more large fish), and reflected in the indicator. Since 2000, The LFI has seen improvements that coincide with areas within the North Sea where trawling has been reduced. There has also been a lack of significant improvement where trawling was not reduced or increased.
ICES has played a key role in bringing fishing effort down through its strong, evidence-based advice. However, although the number of vessels was reduced, the vessels that remained fishing were often the most technologically advanced ones, so questions were asked about the success of the fleet reduction scheme. Engelhard's study shows that it has resulted in some success, in that there are improvements in the LFI that appear linked to localized effort reductions. Engelhard emphasizes how challenging it is to bring the size of the fishing fleet down, and the many effects upon fisheries and livelihoods of fishers. His study shows that there are now clear, measurable, positive effects although the 30% level has not yet been reached. However, otter trawling in the eastern North Sea has locally increased, not decreased, and the LFI has not markedly improved. "Hence, we may celebrate success, but cautiously!" Engelhard advises.
Ideally, Engelhard points out, an indicator is indicative of the state of our marine environment, responsive to management, and easy to communicate to a wider audience. Engelhard feels his presentation demonstrated the usefulness of the LFI as indicator of GES and hopes his use of fish props in his talk contributed to an ease of understanding.
Left to right: Georg Engelhard at ICES ASC Closing session; 3D element of Hoffmann's Political overfishing poster; Engelhard using fish props during his prsentation (Photo: Dorothy Dankel); Julia Hoffmann at ICES ASC Closing session.