A call for adaptive, flexible and well informed fisheries management


Ten lessons on the resilience of the EU common fisheries policy towards climate change and fuel efficiency

A new study by a group of fisheries research scientists shows that European Union (EU) fisheries are likely resilient to climate-driven shortterm stresses, but may be negatively impacted by long-term trends in climate change. Fisheries’ long-term stock resilience can be improved (and therefore be more resilient to increasing changes in climate) by adopting robust and adaptive fisheries management, provided such measures are based on sound scientific advice which includes uncertainty.

However, high resilience of the exploited ecosystem does not necessarily lead to the resilience of the economy of EU fisheries from suffering shocks associated with reduced yields, neither to a reduced carbon footprint if fuel use increases from lower stock abundances. Fuel consumption is impacted by stock development, but also by changes in vessel and gear technologies, as well as fishing techniques. In this respect, energy-efficient fishing technologies already exist within the EU, though implementing them would require improving the uptake of innovations and demonstrating to stakeholders the potential for both reduced fuel costs and increased catch rates. A transition towards reducing fuel consumption and costs would need to be supported by the setup of EU regulatory instruments.

Overall, to effectively manage EU fisheries within a changing climate, flexible, adaptive, well-informed and well-enforced management is needed, with incentives provided for innovations and ocean literacy to cope with the changing conditions, while also reducing the dependency of the capture fishing industry on fossil fuels. To support such management, the scientists provide 10 lessons to characterize ‘win-win’ fishing strategies for the European Union, which develop leverages in which fishing effort deployed corresponds to Maximum Sustainable Yield targets and Common Fisheries Policy minimal effects objectives.

The 10 lessons described in the study:
Lesson 1. Healthy and well-managed stocks are highly resilient to short term stress, but not long-term climate change
Lesson 2. A well-informed fisheries management makes EU stocks more resilient
Lesson 3. Including environmental considerations makes EU stocks more resilient
Lesson 4. Stocks are not isolated but part of an ecosystem that must also be resilient
Lesson 5. EU fisheries’ economic resilience depends on current profitability
Lesson 6. Stock developments are likely to have collateral effects on fuel reduction targets (or other ecosystem components)
Lesson 7. Many economic aspects could come into play in changing fuel use including a change in fuel intensity and fuel-catch efficiency
Lesson 8. A large panel of technologies to reduce fuel use in fisheries already exist
Lesson 9. The actual uptake of technological innovations is still low because of impediments and regulatory barriers
Lesson 10. The governance of fisheries should support adaptive and flexible management

Using the strategies outlined in the study the authors summaries the following results: higher catch is obtained in the long run, less fuel is spent to attain the catch, and the fisheries have a higher resistance and resilience to shock and long-term factors to face climate-induced stresses.

Download and read the whole study and lessons learned here