From ecosystem productivity to economic benefits, issue 55:3 of Journal of Applied Ecology features a Spotlight on Fisheries management. Associate Editor, Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley brings the articles together and discusses the encouraging ways in which this research from temperate and tropical waters can inform management.

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Globally, hundreds of millions of people depend on marine and freshwater fisheries that are faced with mounting challenges and diverse issues regarding sustainable management.

Fisheries in tropical and temperate regions use both spatial (e.g., no-take marine reserves or marine protected areas) and non-spatial (e.g., gear restrictions or catch quotas) approaches to management, underpinned by knowledge of the fishery ecosystem. Our understanding of the continued effectiveness of these different management approaches in light of ongoing global change remains limited. This month, Journal of Applied Ecology highlights seven new studies detailing methods and evaluations of management strategy effectiveness to inform the management of marine fisheries across the globe. These studies collectively offer several key points. First, Rogers et al. and Clausen et al. both show that fisheries productivity can change in response to overall ecosystem productivity and health, with Rogers et al. providing a model that predicts expected fish size under changing coral reef conditions.

North sea fishing boat

Second, Fovargue et al. and Barkley et al. demonstrate the importance of knowing species’ spatial-temporal movements during different life stages to guide more effective marine reserves and to support fisheries sustainability. Third, Kaiser et al. show that recovery rates within marine reserves depend on life-history factors, such as species’ dispersal abilities, and that marine reserve closures and fishing gears should be managed accordingly. Their findings from a single marine reserve complement those of Goetze et al who, in a review of 10 recent studies on periodically harvested closures (a form of marine reserve), find that closures that are larger, closed for longer periods or well enforced have improved short-term fisheries benefits. Finally, Ward et al. provide an economic component to these studies of fisheries management by demonstrating the importance of species’ life-history characteristics on year-to-year revenue for fishers, and that targeted specialization in fisheries can have positive effects on fisher revenue. Overall, these studies stress the importance of considering diverse spatial and non-spatial approaches to fisheries management, with a need to explicitly integrate fisher behaviour and preferences, and different species’ characteristics into fisheries management to provide sustainable outcomes.

[Image courtesy of Fraser Januchowski-Hartley]

While considering and integrating information on species life-history characteristics in fisheries management would certainly guide more effective decisions, data on these characteristics, as well as their relative importance remain limited, particularly in tropical regions that support high species diversity. However, as demonstrated by Fovargue et al., plausible assumptions about characteristics, such as dispersal ability, can be explored in relation to decision-making scenarios to better understand how these influence effectiveness of potential management decisions. At the same time, rapid improvements in, and access to, technologies such as acoustic telemetry and animal-borne sensors will enable more rapid monitoring and collection of information needed to inform fisheries management. Ultimately this collection of studies provides a broad overview of current knowledge and key challenges that must be addressed to guide more sustainable management for diverse fisheries across temperate and tropical marine waters. It is also encouraging to see the potential for studies in tropical and temperate regions to inform management across boundaries, and for researchers and managers from these seemingly different regions to have a shared collection of research findings openly available to decision makers and the public through this Spotlight.

The articles in the Fisheries management Spotlight are freely available for a limited time in issue 55:3 of Journal of Applied Ecology.