Future Oceans: Meeting the Challenges of Securing Aquatic Food Resources
Seafood is the primary source of animal protein for more than one billion people. Many economies and communities, in particular those in developing nations and coastal regions, depend on fisheries. Whereas the dire effects of overfishing on open-access ocean fisheries are already recognized, impacts of catches on freshwater systems are still underestimated. IIASA’s fisheries research elucidates how to secure and expand aquatic food resources, emphasizing three topical challenges. First, improved assessment of the vulnerabilities of aquatic ecosystems to exploitation and other anthropogenic impacts is vital. The limited capacity of conventional statistical models – still the mainstay of such assessments worldwide – to describe regime shifts and other surprising changes in the dynamics of living resources underscores the importance of process-based modeling and management. Second, recent years have witnessed growing awareness that the harvesting of living resources can induce unexpected, and often undesirable, evolutionary changes. These evolutionary dimensions of harvesting have been overlooked for decades, and a new generation of resource scientists and managers need new scientific tools to cope with the opportunities and threats of harvest-induced evolution. Third, aquatic ecosystems are governed by strong and diverse feedbacks, including multiple actors beyond the biological system. Consequently, the socioeconomic dimensions of resource management need to be incorporated into integrated assessments of harvest-control rules, and quantitative methods are required for fairly reconciling the diverging interests of different stakeholder groups. Facing these challenges, IIASA’s research addresses the missing interdisciplinary links in contemporary fisheries science and develops tools for integrated bio-socioeconomic assessments of aquatic food-provisioning systems as a basis for holistic management advice.