Stacy Aguilera is an Abess Fellow at the University of Miami. Her dissertation research focuses on why certain small-scale fisheries in California are relatively successful, from a social and ecological perspective. Follow her on Twitter here!
As my favorite little green guy once said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yoda may have never shared some brewskies after work with a bunch of fishery managers, but boy would they cheers to this. Managing fisheries is a tough job, especially considering all the many factors that can quickly and drastically change a fishery. We’ve got markets bouncing here and there, climate varying in short blurps and over a long time, technology is getting better, and new regulations are proposed and passed all the time. You have to think about all the people involved while also thinking about the species and broader ecosystem as a whole. All these things happening at once means fishery managers, and especially fishermen, processors, and buyers, are dealing with an uncertain future and while some things are predictable, the future is indeed difficult to see.
So how do we manage and fish to keep our fishing industry alive, while also keeping our oceans healthy and full of life? One way is to manage for flexibility. As our recent paper published this March in PLoS ONE explains, managing fisheries adaptively is difficult, but allowing participants to fish multiple fisheries is a strategy that can help. When fishery participants can access many fisheries, they can then support themselves and the local fishery in difficult years, tapping in to multiple resources. This in turn also helps the environment, as shifting fishing effort from one species that isn’t doing so well relieves pressure when fishing then targets another species that may be doing much better at that time.