Moving towards the ecosystem approach to fisheries management: integrating biological realism into stock assessment

Senast ändrad: 27 september 2018

Av Massimiliano Cardinale

The adoption of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development forms a global commitment that focuses on strategies for the sustainable use of natural resources. In Europe, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) establishes the rules for the management of fishing activities of the European fleets around the world. The CFP overarching objective is to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for all major commercially utilized stocks at the latest by 2020. However, MSY is not tailed in isolation but it is embedded within the Precautionary Approach (PA) and the Ecosystem Approach (EA) (FAO, 1995). This implies that MSY is limited by the size of the exploited population and at the same time by the impact of human activities on the ecosystem. The Ecosystem- Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) is the primary way of managing fishing activities around the globe. Thus, with the objective of achieving MSY, fisheries management should integrate EBFM while minimizing the risk of stock collapse and maintaining productive fish stocks within healthy marine ecosystems. The Swedish Policy for Global Development (PGU) is in line with the above mentioned commitments and Sweden has since long been an important actor in several international organizations responsible for the sustainable use of our marine environment. Moreover, Sweden is among the founders of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) and Swedish scientists have since long been heavily engaged in evaluation of the status of exploited marine resources and in formulation of management advice around the globe.

The status of exploited marine resources is evaluated against established biomass reference points. Thus, reference points are used when assessing the state of stocks and their exploitation relative to the precautionary approach, the MSY objectives and the ecosystem approach. To estimate biomass reference points, historical data are pivotal as they offer a long term perspective of the productivity of the population. At the same time, for exploited species, the definition of stock unit is essential for a correct assessment of the productivity and population abundance. Therefore, increased knowledge on the spatial distribution of marine resources is also crucial for a sustainable exploitation and the implementation of a true ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

Here I will review my research which has focused on improving our knowledge on the status of several marine stocks and individual species. Geographically my interest has not been limited to waters where Swedish or European jurisdictions or policies rule. In recent years, I have put much effort on participation in the international cooperation for establishing scientifically based management plans for important stocks in e.g. the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The research has included studies of productivity and historical changes in the spatial distribution of species, data which have contributed to the definition of both reference points and geographical stock units to be used in advice and management. Finally, I will provide ideas and directions for future research, which I consider important for expanding and improving the ecosystem approach to fisheries management through the integration of biological realism into stock assessment, advice and management.


Massimiliano Cardinale, docent, Institutionen för akvatiska resurser, Havsfiskelaboratoriet, SLU,, 010-478 40 14