Uncertainty in Fisheries Report

Addressing Uncertainty in Fisheries Science and Management

The Project

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This project was undertaken to advance best practices for addressing the impact of science and management uncertainty on fisheries management systems. The project engaged a panel of experts (the Panel) and the work was facilitated through the examination of a series of case studies.

The project used structured approaches to assessing how uncertainty is evaluated, reduced, and managed for in fisheries science and management. The Panel focused on science and management approaches separately, but also probed the implications of work that takes place at the interface of these two fields.

The Process

The National Aquarium convened three workshops from January through June 2014 in which the Panel considered various issues surrounding uncertainty in fisheries science and management, refined the focus of this project, and evaluated current approaches to uncertainty. At these meetings, Panel members gained firsthand knowledge from Council members and scientists. The Panel reviewed approaches being used to evaluate, reduce, manage for and communicate uncertainty in fisheries around the world. The Panel also explored innovative approaches that could be developed to be consistent with the current legislative and regulatory framework for U.S. fisheries management.

Each workshop concluded with deliberations about critical issues. The Panel identified relevant fisheries case studies, reviewed the current state of uncertainty consideration and discussed approaches to bridge the science/management continuum. Based on these deliberations and through consideration of specific fishery examples, the Panel developed its findings and recommendations.

Summary of Main Topics

Identifying Uncertainty

Better educate and inform stakeholders, managers, scientists and policy-makers concerning the nature, scope and management implications of uncertainty, and enhance communication at the science-policy interface. Better define the roles of various participants in the management process.

Reducing Uncertainty

Expand and support efforts to reduce uncertainty wherever possible through strategic investments in fisheries dependent and fisheries-independent data, improved modeling and assessment. Regularly evaluate and communicate the limits to—and costs and benefits of—reducing uncertainty.

Managing Fisheries in the Context of Environmental Change

Develop new tools to better understand, communicate, reduce and account for uncertainties, particularly those due to ecosystem changes. Place increased emphasis on broader ecosystem trends and their effects on fisheries science and management decisions.

Managing Risk

Develop and test existing and new methods that prioritize management responses to uncertainty, including Management Strategy Evaluation. Prioritize the use of adaptive management techniques that allow for more regular interaction among scientists, managers and stakeholders to adjust to changes in understanding of fisheries conditions. Incorporate considerations of risk (likelihood and severity of consequences) into management actions and explicitly communicate those risks.

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