An ecosystem approach to management requires a holistic view by integrating different system components, and is now beginning to be more strongly included into marine policy decisions. The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) addresses such an ecosystem approach, together with an economic assessment of the ecosystem.
In the Baltic Sea, the overfishing of cod (Gadus morhua) has, along with eutrophication, been a major environmental concern. Overfishing has not only decreased the productivity of this stock, and thereby affected both commercial and recreational use, but has also altered the entire food-web dynamics.
The aim of this pilot study was to collect economic fisheries-related data , forming the basic input for a bio-economic model to simulate management scenarios for fisheries. To this end, economic fisheries-related data from seve n countries around the Baltic Sea were collected. The collected data show that the Baltic Sea fishing fleets employ more than 9400 persons. In 2007, the industry generated around 160 million Euros of value added.
An overview of the current fisheries management was also undertaken, showing that the EU Common Fisheries Policy is the basic regulatory framework for nearly all countries. The distribution of fishing rights is however a national responsibility. Many countries are moving in the direction of more flexible quota management, where fishermen receive a certain share of the overall quota with the possibility to trade this share.
Bio-economic model tools have been used to simulate different management scenarios and their potential economic and ecological impacts. This model was constructed using the collected economic data and analyzes how fishing effort changes would affect profits from fisheries and the state of the ecosystem. Based on this model approach, four management scenarios were calculated optimizing economic, social and ecological conditions.
The modelling results indicate that fisheries in the Central Baltic Sea are only profitable if the fishing effort is low, given current stocks size and fishing fleets structure. However, this result needs to be interpreted cautiously due to data-related problems. For example, some of the cost indicators were lacking for some countries due to different book-keeping rules, and when aggregated, the total landing data for the fleets did not correspond to the official ICES landings data in the Central Baltic Sea.
This first pilot study shows that the ecological-economic modelling tool functioned reasonably well but that the uncertainties in the economic input data caused unrealistic management scenarios. To improve such a fisherie srelated ecosystem assessment, either the type of economic data needs to be improved to run more realistic scenarios or another economic approach needs to be applied.
FishSTERN is a subproject within the BalticSTERN research network.