Ecosystem-based Responsive Fisheries Management in Europe. New approach to improve fishery productivity.
The FP7-funded ‘Ecosystem-based responsive fisheries management in Europe’ (ECOFISHMAN) project ran from 2011 – 2014 and was coordinated by Matís in Iceland. The project developed a new approach to fisheries management, which involved switching from an outdated micromanagement system to a results-based management (RBM) system in which fishermen play an essential role. Ecological, economic and social aspects were taken into consideration, as well as ways of improving cooperation and mutual understanding between stakeholders and policymakers. The consortium also presented case studies from Iceland, the Mediterranean, the North Sea and Portugal to illustrate the superiority of the new RFMS.
Researchers analysed the situation of discarded fish worldwide and considered specific reasons for the practice, discard mitigation and stakeholder participation. They also studied economic incentives for reducing discards. The project team compiled a list of more than 200 indicators (ecological, social, governance and economic) that was classified against 9 screening criteria by a selection of fisheries and social scientists. Each fishery was rated based on the list of indicators in order to establish an optimal approach for the entire industry. Notably, ecological-based indicators were weighted more than the productivity of the fishery, whereas the governance and social indicators achieved slightly lower mean scores.
ECOFISHMAN has to some point contributed to the development of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and in particular to a new discard policy. It has addressed the challenges of fisheries management by proposing the introduction of an RBM system based on specifying maximum acceptable limits of negative impacts — i.e. the RFMS.
In the RFMS, stakeholder involvement is increased and the whole ecosystem, rather than just selected species, is taken into consideration. Therefore, ECOFISHMAN will improve the productivity of European fisheries and minimise negative effects, including fish discards, overexploited fish stocks, fleet overcapacity and a low degree of compliance.
ECOFISHMAN outcomes have contributed to increasing long-term thinking in the seafood industry by encouraging managers to focus on sustainable growth rather than short-term availability of catch. The project has as well supported consumer demands for seafood products from sustainable stocks.