School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Projects

Operational evaluation tools for fisheries management options (EFIMAS)

EFIMAS aims to develop models for mixed fisheries and long-term management taking into consideration the various social and economic impacts of policy decisions.

Overview

European fisheries are under pressures that result in the decline of fishing stocks, fleet vessels and available jobs in the fishing industry. On the other hand, management and regulation of fisheries increases in complexity, since examining single species proved insufficient to address the sector needs. The rationale for EFIMAS was to develop models for mixed fisheries and long-term management taking into consideration the various social and economic impacts of policy decisions.

In this context, the EFIMAS project aimed to develop and integrate a set of innovative tools into a robust management strategy evaluation (MSE) framework within which to simulate and assess the different consequences of a range of options and objectives within alternative management regimes. The project applied a holistic multidisciplinary approach, integrating knowledge from biology, economy and sociology. The finalised framework structure allowed for increased participation of scientists, stakeholders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in future policy decisions.

Firstly, a thorough literature review was elaborated and resulted in the publication of a book which provided a solid knowledge base for fisheries' management. Different systems were categorised and the adequacy of alternative schemes and decision processes was described in terms of the respective knowledge utilisation.

Project approach

Stakeholder participation

European fisheries management is rapidly changing toward a more responsive and efficient system and increasing stakeholder participation in decision making is an important part of that. Participation brings about changes in the role of science, as well, and the EFIMAS project has contributed significantly to the development of the FLR (and other) suite of tools for facilitating science-based decision making in a participatory context. The classic role played by science in fisheries is to set limits on exploitation according to objective criteria. Under conditions of high stakes and high uncertainty this traditional role is undermined as stakeholders use the political flexibility that uncertainty creates and managers arguably try to make their own decisions easier by turning political problems into technical ones.

With the right tools, science can play a helpful role even when uncertainty is high. One strategy is participatory modelling which has been practised in EFIMAS. The approach uses scenario-based models to evaluate different options. Participatory modelling can involve managers, the fishing industry, conservation NGOs and any other groups concerned with developing good, science-based policy. Participatory modelling is not a substitute for using science to set limits. But when limits are needed, this technique can focus on crafting strategies to meet them in efficient ways. Modelling can force stakeholders to clarify their objectives and explicitly address the trade-offs implied by various strategies.

The common management evaluation framework and tools developed under EFIMAS for evaluating management strategies is a key tool for participatory modelling. It facilitates collaboration across disciplines, ensures that models and software once developed are easily validated, and widely available. In particular it details how to implement a variety of fishery, biological and economic models and software in a common framework so that alternative management strategies and procedures can be evaluated for their robustness to uncertainty before implementation. The design of the framework, including the adoption of object-orientated programming can be extended to new processes and new management approaches – for example ecosystem-based approaches. The management evaluation frameworks developed in EFIMAS and sister projects is open source, which is important for promoting transparency and allowing technology transfer between disciplines and researchers.

Fisheries models

On the fisheries modelling side of the project, the developed stochastic models took into consideration fleet interactions and emphasised in different types of uncertainties, such as ambiguities in data collection and assessment, system modelling, provision of advice, management decisions and implementation of the proposed solutions. In addition, the models were capable of performing reliable sensitivity and risk analyses of the different options' consequences; hence, both existing and innovative strategies could be evaluated. All models operated using an integrated suite of software facilities, with implementation of common language and interface. The tools were successfully applied on typical European systems with different biological, economic, social and technical characteristics which were regulated by various management schemes.

Project outputs

The developed software was open source and accessible through the Internet so as to promote transparency and enhance technology transfer between disciplines and researchers. The evaluation of its performance was continuous, based on the case studies and on feedback received by scientists, stakeholders and end users during interviews and meetings.

Apart from the book and the modelling tools, EFIMAS produced a specific policy and project implementation plan which provided detailed information to the European Commission. The acquired knowledge was further disseminated via numerous actions such as publications, participation in conferences, working groups and training activities and regular communication between EFIMAS members and researchers involved in relevant projects.

The evaluation framework established through EFIMAS and its sister projects is open source simulation tools and is made available from www.efimas.org and http://flr-project.org/. The evaluation framework has been used in ICES (www.ices.dk) stock assessment and mixed fisheries working groups, in EU STECF (http://europa.eu/-scadplus/leg/¬en/cha/c11127.htm) working groups and EU RACs (Regional Advisory Councils), in NAFO Scientific Council working groups (www.nafo.int), and by IWC (www.iwcoffice.org), and presented through a long row of scientific papers, conferences, user courses and workshops produced under EFIMAS. By incorporating a wider range of variables and their uncertainty to illuminate the decision process and allowing for stakeholder feed-back in the evaluation process, fisheries management will be made more accessible to all kinds of stakeholders.

Contributing to policy development 
Project deliverables 
Linkages with other fisheries management initiatives

EFIMAS was one of the largest among a string of EU supported projects that aimed to evaluate and improve management of European fish stocks. EFIMAS has worked closely with a range of national and international projects, including related EU FP5 and FP6 research projects.