Integrated assessment of fishery systems

Fisheries play a key role in food security worldwide, but many aquatic food resources are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. This reflects the failure of management systems devised to address competing demands on the multiple services rendered by aquatic ecosystems.

© Twildlife | Dreamstime

© Twildlife | Dreamstime

The Evolution and Ecology Program (EEP) is developing general approaches for integrated assessments of fishery systems that help reconcile multiple objectives:

  • There are many reasons why management systems fail to secure sustainable exploitation. At the most basic level, regulations may be weak and poorly enforced, as is often the case in developing or newly industrialized countries such as China [1].
  • Even more developed management systems can run into difficulties, because stakeholders tend to differ in their perceptions and expectations – some stakeholders may emphasize employment, others profits, and yet others ecosystem conservation. Ultimately, managing aquatic systems requires reconciling the preferences of all stakeholders with legitimate interests in the resources and services these systems can provide. To facilitate identification of management options that are agreeable to all stakeholders, EEP is developing a framework for the evaluation of joint stakeholder satisfaction based on multi-criteria utility functions [2].
  • Traditionally, sustainability has been assessed mainly from an ecological perspective. Expanding this view, EEP’s research has drawn attention to the challenges of evolutionary sustainability, highlighting that fishing may favor adaptations that, in the long run, reduce the value of the provisioning services rendered by fish stocks (Figure 1) [3].

Figure 1. Evolutionary sensitivity to harvesting depends on a species’ life history and generation time: long-lived species are the least pre-adapted to high mortalities caused by fishing, but their long generation times make the ensuing evolutionary response slower (click on image to enlarge).

  • At the same time, adaptations may make stocks more resilient to harvesting. So-called Evolutionary Impact Assessments (EvoIAs) offer a comprehensive framework for evaluating the consequences of management policies through the integration of eco-evolutionary and socioeconomic perspectives [4].
  • The utility of this innovative approach has already been demonstrated in a case study of the plaice fishery in the North Sea [5].


[1] Shen G & Heino M (2014). An overview of marine fisheries management in China. Marine Policy 44:265–272.

[2] Dankel DJ, Heino M & Dieckmann U. Can integrated assessments reconcile stakeholder conflicts in marine fisheries management?, in preparation.

[3] Heino M, Dunlop ES, Godø OR & Dieckmann U. Management implications of fisheries-induced evolution. In: Dieckmann U, Godø OR & Heino M (eds.), Fisheries-induced Evolution, Cambridge University Press, UK, in revision – a.

[4] Laugen AT, Engelhard GH, Whitlock R, Arlinghaus R, Dankel DJ, Dunlop ES, Eikeset AM, Enberg K, Jørgensen C, Matsumura S, Nusslé S, Urbach D, Baulier L, Boukal DS, Ernande B, Johnston FD, Mollet F, Pardoe H, Therkildsen NO, Uusi-Heikkilä S, Vainikka A, Heino M, Rijnsdorp AD & Dieckmann U (2014). Evolutionary impact assessment: Accounting for evolutionary consequences of fishing in an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Fish and Fisheries 15:65–96.

[5] Mollet FM, Poos JJ, Dieckmann U & Rijnsdorp AD. Evolutionary impact assessment of the North Sea plaice fishery, in revision – c.

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Last edited: 02 June 2015


Ulf Dieckmann

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Evolution and Ecology


Capacity Building and Academic Training

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Integrated Assessment of Fisheries

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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