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Exploring the ‘Public Goods Game’ model to overcome the Tragedy of the Commons in fisheries managementIn situations of declining or depleted fish stocks, exploiters seem to have fallen prey to the Tragedy of the Commons, which occurs when the maximisation of short-term self-interest produces outcomes leaving all participants worse off than feasible alternatives would. Standard economic theory predicts that in social dilemmas, such as fishing from a common resource, individuals are not willing to cooperate and sacrifice catches in the short term, and that, consequently, the resource is overharvested. However, over the last decades, a multitude of research has shown that humans often achieve outcomes that are “better than rational” by building conditions where reciprocity, reputation, and trust help to overcome the temptations of short-term self-interest. The evolution of the natural human tendency to cooperate under certain conditions can be explained, and its neuro-physiological and genetic bases are being unravelled. Nevertheless, fisheries management still often deploys top-down regulation and economic incentives in its aim to regulate fisher behaviour, and under-utilizes the potential for spontaneous responsible fisher behaviour through setting conditions that enhance natural cooperative tendencies. Here I introduce this body of knowledge on how to overcome the Tragedy of the Commons to the audience of fisheries scientists, hoping to open up novel ways of thinking in this field. I do this through a series of thought experiments, based on actual published experiments, exploring under what conditions responsible and cooperative fisher behaviour can be expected. Keys include reputation-building and indirect reciprocity, face-to-face communication, knowledge on the state of the resource, and self-decision on rules and sanctions.
Growth rate fluctuations of herring in the Celtic Sea: a history of life on the edgeThe most south-western herring populations in Europe occur in the Celtic Sea, south of Ireland. Biological sampling has been conducted since the 1920s and routinely since 1958. This study collated and analysed these long term data for the first time. Overall results were examined in the context of time series of environmental data and population scale indices of population status. Size at age was low in the 1920s and 1950s, but increased to a peak in the 1970s before declining strongly until recently. Condition factor over time declined, whilst growth rates were greater in the 1960s and 1970s than in the 1980s and 1990s. Further analyses suggest that the changes are influenced by environmental factors, especially the North Atlantic Oscillation sea surface temperature, and the abundance of Calanus copepods. The implications of this work, for the rational management of this stock, are discussed.
Long term trends in population dynamics of NW Ireland herring revealed by data archaeologyHerring populations to the northwest of Ireland are considered to constitute a single stock. They consist of a diverse array of autumn, winter and spring spawning components. They have been subject to large catches in the past. Landings peaked at 50 000 t in 1987 and have shown a slow decline since, as 2 dominant year classes, born in the 1980s, declined. No strong year classes have appeared since, and the stock is now outside safe biological limits. The time series of data available for stock assessment only covered the period 1970- present, even though routine sampling began after the end of World War I. In order to examine the stock trajectories over time, all catch at age data for the period 1921-1970 were compiled and analysed. The study revealed large fluctuations in the size of the stock and its productivity over time. Occasional strong cohorts occurred either singly, or in close together within 5 years of each other, and were observed at roughly 20-40 year intervals. Interspersed with this were long intervals of poor recruitment. Further historical analyses of 18th and 19th century records confirm this general periodicity. Overall results were examined in the context of time series of sea surface temperature data. The study can provide a basis for development of a long term management plan for the stock, using management strategy evaluation (MSE). The implications of this work, for the rational management of this stock for the future, are discussed.
A new scientific initiative with the Pelagic RAC to develop a management plan for western horse mackerelThe western horse mackerel stock is currently managed by annual TACs covering only part of its distribution area. No stock assessment has been accepted and recent ICES advice has consistently been for status quo catches. In 2006, the Pelagic Regional Advisory Committee asked scientists to help with developing a harvest control rule for the stock that would both meet conservation and stability objectives. An initial questionnaire was circulated to the industry, to elicit feedback on possible management options. A series of Harvest Control Rules were developed. These were tested by simulation and presented to the RAC at a number of meetings. Results will be presented within the ICES advisory process and elsewhere in the scientific literature. This is a developing approach involving scientists and stakeholders in an iterative process. The problems encountered and lessons learned, are discussed.