Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MYFISH Report Summary

Project ID: 289257
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Denmark

Final Report Summary - MYFISH (Maximising yield of fisheries while balancing ecosystem, economic and social concerns)

Executive Summary:
The Myfish project focused on making the MSY principle operational to enable policy makers to make informed decisions on the inherent trade-offs between single stock yield, ecosystem, economic and social considerations. In addition to the original variants of MSY (Maximise the yield in weight) and MEY (Maximum Economic Yield), Myfish defined general and regionally relevant MSY variants and constraints in combined groups of scientists, NGOs, managers and industry representatives for each of five European regions. The consequences of aiming for each of the preferred MSY-variants were evaluated using models defined in the first years of the project and illustrated in online Decision Support Tables (DSTs). Visualization tools were developed along with methods to present the results and uncertainty in a way that can readily be understood in order for trade-offs to be discussed by managers and stakeholders. None of the MSY variants were constant over time and point-estimates were particularly sensitive to variation whereas ranges providing more than 95% of the average yield were more robust to moderate variation in underlying processes. Myfish was very active in providing support for the development of multiannual plans under the new CFP, providing input to a series of meetings organised by Myfish, ICES and European fisheries managers and providing estimates of FMSY ranges. The regional case studies significantly enhanced the possibility of developing informed and widely accepted management approaches and communicated results to industry, NGOs, scientists, managers and policymakers. Myfish looked to fisheries outside the EU and determined general aspects of sound governance and implications of the CFP for governance of MSY management was synthesised to conclude how regionalization can succeed in EU. Social and socio- economic aspects and implementation issues relevant to the selected case studies were identified and suggestions on how to address transition periods to full MSY management to reach both short and long term sustainability targets. Myfish summarised the scientific advances on MSY in general rules for the implementation of MSY management reflecting the general preference of stakeholders, managers and policy makers for flexibility, such as ranges of objectives, rather than points and for ‘pretty good yield/ optimal yield’ rather than maximum yield. An operational framework involving sequential steps was developed and put into practice across five regions. Myfish worked intensively to ensure effective external communication, dissemination and outreach to ensure uptake and dialogue including feedback to project participants throughout the project. A dedicated website was set up at and hundreds of dissemination activities related to projects results have taken place. The Myfish symposium and policy meetings attracted key scientists and stakeholders from the European and global community.
List of Authors
Anna Rindorf, Christoffer Albertsen, Ken Haste Andersen; Eider Andonegi, Johan Askehave, Mel Austen, Alberto V. Ayuso, Jennifer Bailey, Paul Barakowski, Helen Bartelings, Jonathan Beecham, Michel Bertignac, Bjarte Bogstad, Gerda Booij, Aniq Brind'Amour, Thomas Brunnel, Bruno Buhrk, Erik Buismann, Julia Calderwood, Tanja Calis, Jesper Carstensen, Santiago Cerviño, Eric Chatellier, Lotte Worsøe Clausen, Jean Couteau, Sophy McCully, Javier Cutrín, Olivia Daly, Dorthy Dankel, Paul de Groot, Mark Dickey-Collas, Niamh Dornan, Tim Dudeck, Sabine Eberle, Josefine Egekvist, Ole Ritzau Eigaard, Katja Enberg, Eske Evers, Majun Eysturoy, A. Faragas, Keith Farnsworth, Björn Fischer, Mike Fitzpatrick, Peter Frederiksen, Hans Frost, Judith Fuchs, Dorleta Garcia, Gunnar Gerth-Hansen, Henrik Gislason, Domonik Gloe, Claudia Günter, Maria Hadjimichael, Rasmus Hald, Katell Hamon
Jan Hansen, Troels Jacob Hegland, J.Manuel Hidalgo, Mike Hilger, Niels Hintzen, Ellen Hoefnagl, Ayoe Hoff, Julia Hoffmann, Christopher Hopkins, Jan Horbowy, Daniel Howell, Geir Huse, Keith Hyder, Kristin Hänselmann, Ute Jacob, Roland Jacobsen, Dirk Jaudzien, Henning Jensen, John L. Jensen, Mark Mørk Johansen, John Joyce, Wolfgang Juhnke, Allan U. Jørgensen, Peter Bjarne Jørgensen, Candy Kamari, A. Kapantagakis, Stefanos Kavadas, Stefanie Keller, Alexander Kempf, Lotte Kindt-Larsen, Allen Kingston, Kim Kjær, Muriel-Marie Kroll, Anna Kropina, Marloes Kraan, Pascal Laffargue, Y. Laghzali, Erling Larsen, Steffan Elvin Larsen, Adrian Leach, Stephanie Lehutas, Polina Levontin, Frank Luick, José Mª da Rocha, A Machias, Steve Mackinson, Stephanie Mahevas, Christos Maravelias, Enric Massutí, Gorka Merino, David Miller, Joan Moranta, John Mumford, David Murphy, Hilario Murua, Arne Müntz, Christian Möllmann, Richard Nash, Stefan Neuenfeldt, Anders Nielsen, Jakob H. Nielsen, N. Nikolioudakis, Simon Northridge, Caoimhe O Brien Moran, Sean O'Donoghue, Pere Oliver, Eleni Papathanasopoulou, Norah Parke, Martin Pastoors, Diego Pazos, Debbi Pedreschi, N. Peristeraki, P. Peristeraki, Tino Oliver Perregaard, Jörg Petersen, Dornan A. V. F. C Pons, Jan Jaap Poos, Clive Potter, Benjamin Poussin, Raul Prezello, Trevor Purtill, Antoni Quetglas, Stuart Reeves, Esther Reginer, Nils Reher, David Reid, Marieke Reuver, Adrian Rijnsdorp, Christine Rockmann, Beatrice Roel, A. Rog, B. Rog, R. Rog, Axel Rossberg, Jesper Raakjær, Jose Fernandes Salvador, Paz Sampedro, Begoña Santos, Rian Schelvis, Jörn Schmidt, Kai Arne Schmidt, Samuel Shephard, Christine Shortt, Sophie Smout, S. Somarakis, Katrine Soma, Moritz Staebler, Claus Stenberg, Camilo Saavedra, Simon Tero, Trine Groentved Thomasen, Robert Thorpe, Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen, Rachel Gjesvik Tiller, Sigurd Tjelmeland, Julia Torralba, Julia Touza, George Tserpes, Clara Ulrich, Agurtzane Urtizberea, Sander van den Burg, Douwe van den Ende, Marieken van der Sluis, Olga van der valk, Mikael van Deurs, Ralf van Hal, Hans van Ostenbrugge, Harriet van Overzee, Ilaria Vielmini, Morten Vinther, Rudi Voss, Bettina Walter, F. Zimmerman, Ole Henrik Haslund

Project Context and Objectives:
Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) emerged from fisheries science in the middle of the 20th century. In the classical formulation, MSY referred to the maximal yield measured in biomass per year, which could be taken from a single species year after year. In response to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development setting the global imperative to manage fish stocks/fisheries sustainably according to the MSY concept, the European Common Fisheries Policy made a commitment to direct management of fish stocks towards achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015 with a full implementation by 2020. However, reaching this goal is difficult because achieving MSY for one stock may affect the achievement of MSY for other stocks and compromise ecological, environmental, economic, or social aims. In total, Myfish identified four major global challenges to an effective implementation of MSY management:

1. maximizing yield of one stock will has an impact on other stocks through the multi-fleet nature of the fishery and biological interactions between fish stocks
2. goals in terms of ecosystem, economic and social objectives are potentially conflicting
3. variability and trends in environmental, economic and social conditions affect fish stock productivity and distribution, species interactions, fishing techniques as well as fisheries dynamics and targeting behaviour
4. MSY-management must be implemented in a way that is acceptable, operational and efficient
Right at the beginning of Myfish, the new Common Fisheries Policy was agreed. This introduced a landing obligation for selected species and the concept of Multiannual Plans as well as the principle of MSY. While these changes were not part of the original work description in Myfish, they increased the need for scientific advice to be consistent across species and sustainable from both an ecological, economic and social perspective.

In response to the four global challenges, the objective of Myfish was to move beyond the classical interpretation of MSY to provide examples of scientific advice on MSY which are consistent with all aspects of sustainability, acceptable and practically implementable. The project aimed to reach this objective though consideration of more advanced MSY variants which account for the fact that single species rarely exist in isolation and that it may be desirable to sustain or maximize a broader range of measures of yield than biomass per year (e.g. ecosystem and socioeconomic metrics). In the process, the word “yield” was redefined to signify any measure which could potentially be maximized, the term “sustainable” to signify that Good Environmental Status is maintained and economically and socially unacceptable situations avoided, all with acceptable levels of risk, and the term “MSY variant” to refer to a combination of a yield measure and the effects which are taken into account (e.g. multi-fleet and multi-species interactions). Myfish aimed to suggest MSY variants and procedures rendering the MSY approach robust to changes based on consideration of the effects of the environment, economy and society on MSY variants.

Myfish approached the high level objective through first defining limits to sustainability and relevant measures of yield to be maximized, evaluating the effect and desirability of aiming for these yield measures while respecting sustainability, and finally providing an operational framework for their implementation. These tasks were approached through cases addressing single species, mixed species, pelagic, and demersal fisheries across Europe.

To ensure the aim that the results of the project should be consistent, operational and relevant at both local, regional and global scales, Myfish participants aimed to work in continuous cooperation with stakeholders in all AC areas. The project aimed to cover single and mixed fisheries for pelagic and demersal species in European regions ranging from the North Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and combine this with strong associations with scientists in Canada, the US and New Zealand. Myfish also aimed to construct guidelines for MSY variants for stocks with ample data as well as for data poor situations and address the effects of non-stationarity in ecological, economic and social environments to provide an operational framework which can be implemented for the future management of European fish stocks, and an example for the management of global fisheries. Myfish aimed to cover all aspects of fishing from ecosystem effects over economy to social aspects. To ensure the highest scientific level in all these areas, the project involved scientists with expertise ranging from fishing and ecosystem effects thereof, to economic and social sciences. The cooperation of scientists with complimentary backgrounds ensured that the results of the project were acceptable and relevant both to specialists and the broader scientific community.

Communicating with managers in a targeted effort throughout the project life time to ensure that results were available for incorporation in management as quickly as possible was a specific aim in Myfish. To ensure this, the project maimed to make results available to managers throughout the project, using Decision Support Tables to provide the overview of the evaluation of different variants required for informed decision making and social impact assessments to provide recommendations on social aspects.

Project Results:
Myfish consortium and structure
Myfish gathered 31 partners including national fisheries institutes, universities and commercial enterprises across all European regions in a consortium coordinated by DTU Aqua. The partners cover a broad range of knowledge, from traditional fields in fisheries science and fisheries management over expertise in bycatch of sensitive species, effects of fishing on environment and sea bottom, resource and environment economics, to social science and industry involvement. The project was initiated in 2012 and ended in 2016.

Structure of the project followed the main objectives to define limits to sustainability and relevant measures of yield to be maximized, evaluate the effect, desirability and variability when aiming for these yield measures while respecting sustainability variability, and finally providing an operational framework to implement these. Further, the project structure reflected the objectives to synthesise and communicate results.

The project was initiated with a workshop aiming to determine which variants are acceptable and feasible in practical management in each of five European regions: the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Western Waters and Widely Ranging Stocks.

The initial results showed a clear preference for maximizing inclusive governance and ensuring precautionarity. As a result, Myfish continued to produce test cases for how an inclusive governance process can be conducted in practice while adhering to the precautionary and MSY principles. The work has involved various aspects of scientific modeling to predict what aiming for e.g. MSY in tons or value of landings would mean to the yield, the status of stocks and the status of other factors such as other ecosystem components and income associated with fishing, visualization and elicitation of responses to different scenarios.
Defining limits to sustainability
Myfish made a specific effort not only to identify indicators and associated reference points, but also to get these indicators accepted and used in management through advice given by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Focus areas included: the definition of biomass reference points for exploited stocks (Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) descriptor 3); indicators and reference points for Good Environmental Status (GES) on biodiversity and bycatch of sensitive species (MSFD descriptor 1); indicators and reference points for GES of food web indicators (MSFD descriptor 4); indicators and reference points for GES of the pelagic ecosystem (MSFD descriptors 1, 3 and 4); and socioeconomic indicators such as the Gini index of inequality in the distribution of benefits in Baltic fisheries. Here, summaries of the last two efforts are provided as examples.
Towards Good Environmental Status for small pelagic fish
Small pelagic fish have an important role in marine food webs, where they serve as prey for many larger fish, birds and marine mammals. By feeding on smaller food items such as plankton, they contribute greatly to the flow of energy from small to large marine animals. Managing fisheries relating to these species is therefore of great importance, not only to ensure sustainable exploitation of the small pelagic fishes themselves, but also to ensure that food is available for larger predatory fish, birds and marine mammals. Myfish identified the elements that contribute to GES for small pelagic fish together with a large variety of stakeholders. Through a number of workshops, an extensive list of elements was compiled, which were prioritised according to stakeholder preferences and data availability.
The top ranking elements were further analysed and linked to specific indicators that can be measured in the field. These indicators include metrics of the total biomass of all pelagic fishes which should be large enough to serve as food for other species. As these fish migrate over large distances, it is also important to have enough adult fish around to guide younger fish. And as pelagic fish tend to rapidly respond to changes in the environment, changes in condition of the fish were also chosen. A final indicator described the relationship between what is known of the most common pelagic fish species and the ones that are less common in the catches. Given this (short) list of objectives and indicators, Myfish concluded that in the northeast Atlantic, the pelagic ecosystem is almost in a good status. Some species, such as sandeels, require additional attention, both in the North Sea as in the Celtic Seas.
The management plans that currently exist for many small pelagic species in the northeast Atlantic aim for high catches from year to year, while individual pelagic stocks need to remain above certain biomass thresholds. These plans may not necessarily result in good status of the pelagic ecosystem and therefore, possible new management plan concepts were discussed. The outcomes of these discussions are extremely valuable in designing management plans for the future. Through intensive collaborations between all groups robust management plans can be defined for the future that not only achieve high and stable fish catches, but also ensures a good status of the pelagic ecosystem.
Inequality in the distribution of benefits
Myfish investigated whether information on the inequality in distribution of benefits between countries was seen as an aid in decision making in the Baltic. In this area, there is a complex interplay between catches of the three main species and increasing catches of a specific species benefit specific countries to a varying degree. This makes trade-offs particularly complicated as one nation is predicted to gain while other are likely to lose from aiming for a specific management objective. The opinion of participating managers, industry and NGO representatives was that this type of analysis could provide valuable information for discussing trade-offs. The scientific advice should not determine the exact trade-off as this decision should remain in the policy domain.
Defining what fisheries should aim to maximize
At the very beginning of the project, Myfish defined general and regionally relevant limits to sustainability and variants of yield which fisheries could aim to maximise, considering in the process several yield variants in a workshop with participating scientists, NGOs, managers and industry representatives. The objective of this large scale workshop was to determine which yields would be acceptable and feasible as objectives to maximize in practical management in each of our five European regions. The results showed that five yield variants occurred in the top ten preferred of all groups and the variant ‘Maximise inclusive governance’ had a ‘very good’ performance in all groups, making this the top ranked maximization variant. All regions rated ‘GES descriptors of commercial species above reference level’ in the top ten ranked constraints, indicating that ensuring ecological precautionarity is an important aspect in all areas. Management measure rankings were considerably more variable resulting in few obvious high ranking measures.

The operational Myfish MSY framework
Myfish constructed a draft framework for MSY management which is comprised of four steps:
1) Problem framing: determine objectives not currently met
2) Options: agree dimensions for decisions
3) Implementation: address the resulting trade-offs moving to new variants
4) Evaluation: check that outcomes meet wider objectives
Based on this Operational Framework, each of the Myfish case studies was evaluated. This served both to evaluate how broadly applicable the framework was across a range of different scenarios, but also allowed evaluation of progress within the case studies. This evaluation was only possible for the first steps, as implementation in management was not completed during the project life time.

Developing the models necessary to evaluate different objectives
The project progressed from the definition of suitable limits to sustainability and objectives to be maximised to develop and adapt the models required to estimate the likely outcomes of aiming for the preferred MSY variants. The models were used to populate the Decision Support Table (DST). These DSTs were populated with the scenarios identified as relevant in each area by stakeholders in the first phase of the project including information on both average levels and variability. Subsequently, the DSTs were discussed with stakeholders to identify priorities based on the best estimates of the effect on the ecological, economic and social aspects of the fishery when pursuing specific aims.
To allow this progression, model development was a large part of the work in Myfish. Specific efforts were made to elaborate existing models to allow forecasting of stock sizes, yield and appropriate ecological, economic and social sustainability indicators, the maximization of yield within specific limits to sustainability indicators as well as the estimation of management combinations providing close-to-MSY. This required evolving models which were consistent and scientifically sound in the modelling of ecological, fishing and economic processes to ensure that no conflicting recommendations were made due to divergent or unlikely model formulations. Further, models of data limited stocks were also developed. The result was a series of world-class models providing the necessary scientific basis for advice on MSY, MEY and MSOY management which is sustainable from both ecological, economic and social perspectives. The models and their predictions have been documented in a series of scientific articles and have been presented and evaluated in scientific groups within Europe, ICES, GCFM and globally in Australia, US and New Zealand. Following this development, a total of 32 DSTs demonstrating 119 scenarios and covering all five regional cases were produced.

Variability and MSY
Changes in fish productivity affect both the maximum fisheries yield, the fishing mortality at which this yield is obtained as well as all subsequent indicators dependent on yield such as revenue and employment may be in the longer term. In addition to this, yield variants based on revenue, profit and cost structure are sensitive to changes in fish prices as well as the cost of fishing, including for example labour, fuel costs and distance to suitable fishing grounds. In many areas, the employment in the fishing industry depends at least partly on the availability and desirability of alternative employment opportunities. As a result of these dependencies on non-constant processes, MSY, MEY and other MSY variants change slightly every year. Much of the change is short-lived or gradual, but larger changes may occur where the ecosystem or economic and social considerations undergo abrupt shifts.
An example of such a sudden change is the change in productivity of the North Sea forage fish. Time-series of growth, recruitment and zooplankton abundance showed periods of high and low productivity and productivity of all five pelagic fish stocks in the North Sea changed over time. After 1993, a distinct decrease in productivity led to a substantial decrease in MSY for all stocks. Myfish found this pattern to be synchronous across stocks. The absence of alternating high-and-low productivity across stocks had consequences for the combined MSY and the total forage fish biomass, severely decreasing total yield rather than simply changing the composition of this yield. Further examples can be seen in deliverable reports and in the symposium presentations at
Showing the results of evaluations: Myfish Decision Support Tables (DSTs)
The Decision Support Tables (DSTs) developed in Myfish are graphical tables reflecting the effects and trade-offs of implementing different MSY options on ecosystem, economic and social constraints with a particular focus on the risk of exceeding acceptable levels for constraints. The goal of the DSTs is to convey a large amount of information on alternative management scenarios in an accessible manner, making it more readily understandable to fisheries stakeholders. DSTs have been used to present the results of the project to stakeholders in all regions.

The Myfish DSTs integrate a number of graphical devices: (1) icon arrays which also incorporate ‘fading out’ to represent uncertainty; (2) icons that closely resemble the actual species concerned; (3) different types of icons to represent different quantities, fish stock or profit; (4) colour to show regions of particular concern and (5) embedded pie-charts to show progression or difference. The number of cod icons refers to the mass of cod, the number of Euro signs to profit, the colour red to problems, and fading to uncertainty. The goal is to convey a large amount of information in a manner which makes comparison across several criteria of the merits of alternative management scenarios more accessible to stakeholders than would be achieved with a table of numbers.

The southern North Sea DST is presented below as an example but the entire suite of Myfish DSTs can be found at the Myfish website ( More information related to the details of the models used to produce the tables can be found at the Myfish website
The Southern North Sea DST
In the southern North Sea case study, the effects of three different MSY targets (maximising yield in kg, maximising yield in Euro, maximising profit) on i) the ecosystem, ii) the economy of the main fleets (flatfish and brown shrimp fisheries) and iii) their employment were investigated. In addition, the constraints imposed by harvesting by-catch like turbot and elasmobranchs in a sustainable way have been investigated (in scenario ‘MEY constrained’) and the impact of such constraints assessed. The DST shows the effect on landings in tonnes of each of the main target species plaice, sole and shrimp, employment in the main fishing fleets, the profit obtained in the fishery and the total effort inserted. Further, a version was made showing the effect of the different scenarios on sensitive ray species.
The main conclusions drawn based on the DST were:

• The current definition of MSY (maximum sustainable yield in kg) is not optimal from an economic and conservation point of view.

• Economic efficiency and ecosystem sustainability are not mutually exclusive. Maximising profit leads to low fishing effort and a relatively low by-catch and improved size structure. There is no substantial loss in profit caused by the protection of by-catch species.
• Economic optimisation and the protection of by-catch species are achieved with much lower catch and at a high social cost (lower employment).

• A compromise must be found between economic optimisation and social constraints without jeopardising Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) related targets.

Case study 1: Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea case study focused on the trade-offs between having a large stock and catch of valuable cod, which consume herring and sprat, or a smaller stock of cod together with a higher stock of sprat and herring as a smaller percentage of these fish are then eaten by cod. To describe this trade-off in detail, an ecological-economic model for the three main species in the Baltic Sea (cod, herring, and sprat) was developed. The model describes predator-prey relationships and stock sizes as well as the economic costs and earnings of catching fish. The aim was to investigate the effects of the rebuilding of a large cod stock on herring and sprat. The model showed that economic optimisation leads to a cod-dominated system which is highly profitable. However, this system has two undesirable properties: the sprat stock becomes very low due to the higher number of sprat eaten by cod, and the country-specific increase in profits is very uneven; two Baltic countries would even make a loss in terms of combined profits from all three fisheries.

Substantial difficulties have arisen in the Baltic cod single species assessment over the past few years, presumably due to a range of factors such as reduced growth, changes in catchability and increased predation. In the analyses, the assumption is that the difficulties encountered in recent years are transient phenomena and hence will not affect long term considerations. Under these assumptions, the Baltic cod recovery plans raise two fundamental fisheries management questions involving trade-offs: (i) How much biomass and potential economic yield, provided by the high value cod stocks, needs to be sacrificed to allow for the protection of lower value, but ecologically important, forage fish species, and (ii) What are the additional costs of considering an equitable distribution of benefits between the demersal (cod) and pelagic (forage fish) fisheries sectors, given that the latter has expanded after the cod collapse?

The DST for the Baltic Sea accounts for species interaction (i.e. cod predation on herring and sprat). The table shows two potential management options and their respective outcome for cod, herring and sprat in terms of spawning stock biomass, catch, total profits, distribution of profits to the fisheries (evenness), as well as fishing mortality. Options are chosen to achieve a sprat spawning stock biomass respecting current biomass limit values applied in the management for this stock.

These results were discussed in detail at a joint meeting of the Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC), Myfish and its sister project SOCIOEC (Socio Economic Effects of Management Measures of the Future CFP, (http://www. The results were discussed while keeping the current problematic status of the eastern Baltic cod stock in mind. There was agreement that even though there may be current problems, there is still a need to agree on long term targets for the Baltic Sea. A structure where scientists provide advice on the combination of management targets, which were considered sustainable and would provide yields reasonably close to the estimated MSY was considered to be a potentially useful route forward. One option to provide some flexibility for decision makers is to use MSY ranges. Following the meeting, Myfish contributed to the development of FMSY ranges for the major Baltic stocks through the joint ICES/Myfish workshop on the topic and these ranges were subsequently used as input for the draft Multiannual Plan for the Baltic Sea. The models developed can be used to provide advice on the consequences of aiming for different combinations of fishing mortality within these ranges.

In the analyses of issues relevant to implementation of MSY management, nearly all restrictions were expected to lead to a substantial loss of income, number of vessels and employment. There was lack of satisfaction with regulations, stock improvement, collaboration with science and participation in decision making. The development of scientifically-based ‘what if’ scenarios represented a major vehicle for discussion of potential ecosystem developments and importantly trade-off options, exemplified in DSTs, seen from the perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups. However, the Baltic Sea currently lacks a cohesive regional forum for bringing together scientific advice, consultation and dialogue, and eventual decision-making.
During MYFISH discussions, it became obvious that basic conservation goals, e.g. the need for minimum stock sizes, are largely undisputed, while the path towards sustainable use is controversial. There are a number of ‘beyond-profit’ interests in fisheries: enhanced stability and resilience as well as reduced uncertainty are key objectives which have been raised both from fishing industry and from nature conservation (i.e. environmental NGO) representatives. There was, however, no comprehensive agreement on how far into ecology (e.g. species interactions, ecosystem considerations) fisheries management should go. Furthermore, it was especially pointed out by the fishing industry that science should see its role in elaborating and displaying the costs and benefits of various scenarios/options, and leave decision-making to the policy system, i.e. scientists should act as ‘honest brokers’.
The request for longer time perspectives and enhanced stability of fishing opportunities and reduced uncertainty is encompassed in the draft MAP proposals for the key commercial Baltic Sea fisheries. The proposals leave space for trade-off analysis, as the fishing mortalities (FMSY) are provided as a range of values for each of the stocks, instead of a non-negotiable FMSY point estimate. Within this range, the system will provide a ‘pretty good yield’, and in so doing provide a practical and acceptable solution for the combined fisheries. This has to be considered as a first step only, as the task of fully incorporating species interactions as well as socio-economic considerations remains open. As the Baltic ecosystem, including its socio-economic aspects, are frequently changing due to the influence of various human and naturally induced drivers, it is prudent to regularly review, revise and adapt the above-mentioned multispecies MAP. MSY/MEY value estimates are dependent on the changing status of the ecosystem and the agreed MAP needs to anticipate these changes.

Case Study 2: Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean regional study consists of two sub-cases that examine the multi-species bottom trawl fisheries exploiting the demersal resources of the Aegean (eastern Mediterranean) and Balearic (western Mediterranean) seas. The medium term effects of various input control management measures on economic MSY variants were examined taking also into account biological (i.e. exploitation state of key-stocks) and social constraints (sustainability of the jobs in the fisheries sector). The DSTs developed summarise the comparisons among various fishing effort control schemes in the form of temporal closures and capacity reductions, as well as changes in the selectivity pattern of the fishing gears.

Eastern Mediterranean
In the eastern Mediterranean case study, the multi-species bottom trawl fisheries that exploit the demersal resources of the Aegean Sea were considered. The medium term effects of various input control management measures on economic MSY variants were examined, taking into account biological (i.e state of key-stocks) and social constraints (sustainability of the jobs in the fisheries sector). The DSTs summarise the comparisons among temporal closures, capacity reductions and gear selection changes. Effort reductions implied through temporal closures seemed to be the more realistic scenario as they seem to improve profits per vessel, satisfying, to a large extent the biological and social constraints. Drastic capacity reductions would decrease the ecosystem impact of the fisheries and also lead to high profit increases in the medium term, but subsidies may be necessary for their application.

During the meeting with stakeholder representatives from the Pan-Hellenic Union of Middle-Range Ship Owners, the MSY variants identified to have the highest priority were related to production and income based on key-species composing the main bulk of catches in the area. Input control schemes were considered to be the most appropriate management tool, and preference was given to effort controls and temporal fishery closures as management measures. Two types of constraints were identified as being most important: (a) biological constraints that included the state of key stocks; and (b) socioeconomic constraints that were focusing on the sustainability of the jobs in the fisheries sector and in the maintenance of small fishing communities.

DSTs were presented and discussed during the annual meeting of the Union gathering app. 100 participants. Although the stakeholders generally agreed with the main outcome that additional effort cuts would be beneficial in the short/medium term, they claimed that under the current financial circumstances it is impossible to maintain the viability of the fisheries if additional management measures are imposed without subsidies. The communication with stakeholders suggested that the management tools used were generally accepted but improvements are needed in the decision making approach. For instance, it was broadly accepted that stocks and fisheries should be managed through input control schemes, but there was a lack of transparency and participatory mechanisms when it comes to planning and adopting specific measures. It was, however, difficult to identify commonly agreed harvest control rules given that management objectives are prioritized differently among stakeholders. Nevertheless, participatory structures would at least improve transparency and ensure a certain degree of acceptability of management decisions among stakeholders.

The western Mediterranean case study

The Western Mediterranean DST addressed the management of demersal species exploited by the bottom trawl fishery, which is the most important in terms of total landings in the Balearic Islands. Although these fisheries are clearly multispecific, four target species can be considered corresponding to four different fishing tactics representing the exploitation of different depth strata: 1) striped red mullet (Shallow Shelf); 2) hake (Deep Shelf); 3) Norway lobster (Upper Slope); and 4) red shrimp (Middle Slope). These four species are regularly assessed in the framework of the GFCM or STECF and, although in better exploitation status than in nearby areas, all four stocks are overexploited.

The DST for this case included three different scenarios: 1) the current situation, which is considered unsustainable given that all four stocks are over-exploited; 2) the MSY predicted by the bio-economic model, which was considered unfeasible by the fishermen owing to the very high reductions in fishing effort required (up to 71% for hake); and 3) an intermediate scenario in between these two previous, extreme situations; although this intermediate scenario also demands important effort reductions, they were considered feasible by the fishermen.

The main management scenario preferred by stakeholders included the reductions of fishing effort shown in the intermediate scenario. The benefits of such fishing effort reductions would be twofold. Firstly, an improvement in the exploitation status of the different target stocks and hence on the demersal ecosystems exploited by the bottom trawl fishery. Secondly, an improvement in the viability of the fishing industry by means of reducing fishing costs in terms of substantial reductions in fuel consumption. For fishers, the fuel price is the main constraint.

Given that bottom trawlers operate on different bathymetric strata depending on the target species, differential effort reductions should be put in practice according to the exploitation status of each single stock. As hake is the most over-exploited species, effort reductions should be higher on its fishing grounds (deep shelf) and a recovery plan should be considered.

The analyses carried out in MYFISH showed that most target stocks are overexploited, which disagrees with the generalized conception that small scale fisheries have lower impact on the resources than other fishing gears. The actual values of relative fishing mortality and biomass should however be interpreted with care as the assessments were performed using official fishing statistics, which are known to underestimate Mediterranean small scale fishing impact due to the high levels of unreported catches. In the highly touristic Balearic Islands, where recreational catches represent 43% of the commercial catches, this activity may seriously affect the exploitation state of some target stocks. Moreover, some of the recreational catches are illegally commercialized. Effective assessment and management of small scale fishing should thus tackle these two main issues seriously, unreported catches and the impact of recreational fisheries.

Case Study 3: North Sea

The North Sea case study addressed complex multi species and mixed fisheries interactions. The focus was on the mixed demersal roundfish fishery for cod, haddock, saithe and whiting and the southern part of the North Sea where flatfish and brown shrimp fisheries dominate.

Fisheries management based on the MSY concept is a complex task in the North Sea. Multi species simulations show that the abundance of top predators like cod and saithe determine to a large extent the yield that can be taken from other species, leading to the need to trade yield of one country or one fishery against that of another. This was identified by stakeholders as being an area of high potential conflict. Mixed fisheries interactions further complicate the situation. So called “choke species” are a hot topic in current discussions. Under the landing obligation, the maximum sustainable yield that can be achieved in mixed fisheries is constrained by these choke species because fisheries have to stop when the quota of these species is exhausted. Choke species can be target species like cod as well as by-catch species like turbot or elasmobranchs (skates, rays and sharks). As well as this, there are trade-offs between economic optimisation and social benefits such as employment that have to be taken into account when defining objectives for fisheries management in the North Sea. This complex system requires a look beyond traditional single species fisheries management.
In the Myfish project, MSY variants compatible with a multi species and mixed fisheries context were defined, and the potential biological and economic consequences of reaching these alternative MSY targets were assessed. Results showed that sustainable multi species exploitation levels may be very different from those defined in a single species context. Lowering exploitation rates for all stocks may not solve all problems. Some stocks may suffer from increasing predation, for example by cod and saithe. Myfish also showed that ecosystem conservation can be compatible with economic optimisation. With the imminent implementation of the landings obligation, the mixed fisheries context will become increasingly important in management. Fisheries will be constrained when they do not have enough quota for every species they catch.
Overall, a “Pretty good yield concept” may be more suitable than trying to reach the absolute maximum of each component in a range of incompatible objectives. Sustainable ranges for FMSY in accordance with the pretty good yield concept are one option in this respect. The aim would be to keep all stocks within their individual sustainable ranges leading to pretty good yield (e.g., at least 95% of the maximum) instead of trying to fish all stocks simultaneously at their stock specific FMSY point estimate. This may lead to a broader interpretation of the MSY concept because ranges could also include sustainable fishing mortalities above FMSY but provides room to find compromises and allows minimizing the effect of choke species under the landing obligation. At the same time it gives a framework for policy makers to restrict the negotiation space to sustainable options.
ICES and MYFISH were tasked with identifying possible ranges for a number of stocks, using a standardised framework. These elements are the backbone of regional mixed-fisheries management plans currently being developed. For the North Sea, STECF evaluated with support from the MYFISH community that FMSY ranges could lead to more flexible sustainable management of mixed-fisheries, provided that TACs are not blindly set at the maximum of the range each year. However, the upper limits should be used only in well justified circumstances to avoid e.g., unacceptable losses in yield because of the choke species problem during the first years of the implementation of the landing obligation.
Another advantage of FMSY ranges is that they are more robust as management target than point estimates. Sensitivity tests carried out in MYFISH revealed that the point estimates of FMSY depend on environmental factors (e.g., productivity of stocks, eutrophication, abundance of predators), the assumed effort-catch relationship, type of optimisation (singles species vs. multi species) and the choice of the model. However, estimated FMSY or FMEY point estimates remained inside the ICES sustainable ranges in many cases even when conditions varied.
Aiming for MEY rather than MSY led to lower fishing effort in both North Sea sub-case studies and as such was more beneficial for by-catch species, benthic habitats and the size structure in ecosystems. However, as discussed above, employment and market opportunities most likely suffer when aiming for MEY. Among fishermen operating in the southern North Sea flatfish and brown shrimp fisheries, 25% agreed to change fishing areas to avoid catching sensitive rays whereas another 38% would discard the species due to their perceived high discard survival.
Before ecosystem aspects can be implemented in management plans, reference points or ranges have to be agreed. Although for many species, suggestions are available from ICES working groups or MYFISH, an official acceptance of such reference points has not been achieved so far. Therefore, an official agreement (also in conjunction with the MSFD) on reference points besides the main target stocks in the North Sea is needed as a first implementation step.
The current approach to manage fish stocks by TACs is seen by interviewed fishermen to be the most effective. However, management by TACs is complicated under the landing obligation and some fishers felt that the current TACs do not correspond to the fishing opportunities and that discards are primarily an effect of a mismatch between TACs and fish population sizes and a decrease in the amount of complex technical measures was seen as a potential improvement.

An important outcome of Management reflection workshops was the view that science should not make the decisions but should provide advice on the range of potential options within a sustainable exploitation space. It is then up to other stakeholders groups to make final decisions. In the MYFISH approach, different stakeholder groups were included from the beginning to enable discussions on difficult trade-offs and to provide options for a sustainable exploitation. Overall, MYFISH gave insights on how inclusive governance can help in difficult political processes to reach consensus and how science can be used to make informed decisions inside a multi-dimensional trade-off space.
Implementing the landing obligation for mixed fisheries is more complicated in Europe than in other parts of the world because of the “relative stability” principle. This principle ensures that each year countries achieve the same quota shares based on historical fishing rights of a given stock. This may lead to situations where fishermen cannot adapt their landing rights to the expected catch composition. In the case study on the mixed demersal roundfish fishery, the losses in yield and NPV were substantial in comparison to a system where at least redistributions inside a country were allowed. Currently a system of quota swapping is used to overcome the limitations caused by the principle of relative stability. However, it is unclear how such a system of voluntary quota exchanges will function under the landing obligation. Discussions on the relative stability principle may be needed again at the next CFP reform in case the implementation of the landing obligation suffers from insufficient flexibility.
In general, the pathway taken towards sustainable use is often controversial and can lead to unacceptable short-term economic or social outcomes. The main three short-term concerns mentioned during MYFISH stakeholder consultations were:
- Maintain viable fisheries (economically and thus socially) and avoid companies to go bankrupt on the way to MSY or during the implementation of the landing obligation.
- Keep access to the valuable stocks while exploiting them sustainably and minimize the choke species problem under the landing obligation
- Avoid large variation in landings from year to year as this affects not only the economic viability of the fleets but also market conditions.

A main outcome of the stakeholder elicitations in the North Sea was that there is no simple solution satisfying the objectives of all stakeholders all the time. Therefore, setting FMSY or FMEY as management target without flexibility for compromises must lead to dissatisfaction of some of the stakeholders. A well-structured decision making process with clear responsibilities is needed in fisheries management to resolve trade-offs and to find compromises. In the EU, the current system the EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission must agree before any management plan or target can be implemented. Once an agreement is reached, necessary adaptions to management plans as a result of changes in e.g. the ecosystem should be facilitated rather than hindered by overcomplicated governance structures.

Case study 4: Western Waters

The Western Waters case study was divided into four regional sub-case studies, from north to south: the Celtic sea, the Irish Sea, the Bay of Biscay; and the Iberian Sea. Each sub case study dealt with different aspects of sustainability: the Celtic Sea case study focused on biodiversity; in the Bay of Biscay focus was on the role of spatial management in the achievement of MSY; the Irish Sea case looked at vulnerable data-poor species; and finally the Iberian Sea case study focused on the socioeconomic dimension of MSY. This summary focuses on the result from the latter two cases. Details on the other cases can be found at
Irish Sea skates and rays

Skates and rays are vulnerable to fishing, even when they are not actually the target species. Their vulnerability is a result of them tending to be long lived, to grow slowly, mature late in their life, and have few young. For example, ironically, the common skate species complex is regarded as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the challenges in trying to deal with this issue is the lack of any detailed data on how fishing is impacting skates and rays. Until recently, landings have simply been labeled as “skates and rays” which made it impossible to determine what proportion of each species was being removed. Myfish found a new way to show what proportion of these species populations are being caught in the fisheries. A combination of survey data, data from observers on fishing vessels and information on how easily the skate species were caught in the net was used and the “harvest ratio”, or proportion of the population removed each year by fishing, was then determined for each species.

With this information, Myfish determined which species were “harvested” sustainably, and which were subject to potentially unsustainable pressure. The results showed that two species, the blonde ray and the cuckoo ray, were fished well above sustainable levels while another species, the thornback ray, was apparently exploited at sustainable levels. This is the first time it has been possible to provide advice on whether these sensitive species are exposed to unsustainable pressure.
Consultations with stakeholders showed that conservation of endangered species is an important issue which might constrain exploitation of other species, but at the same time they agreed that fisheries should be exploited in an economically rational way. Myfish scientists have developed and tested tools to compute the cost of conserving these species using models that consider the implications of conservation constraints to fisheries that impact skate and ray populations, and evaluate how one could respond to these constraints in an economically optimal way. The difference in profits between the situations with and without constraints can be understood as the cost of management measures to protect endangered skates and rays.

Iberian Sea
The Iberian Sea sub case study focused on the conflicting objectives between artisanal and industrial fleets and on the mixed-fisheries nature of both fleet components. The fishery was divided in four main fleets, drift netters, purse seiners, trawlers and hookers. Myfish compared the performance of the fishery system under the current TAC advice framework, single stock MSY reference points defined by ICES and a set of reference points calculated simultaneously for all the stocks using and bio-economic optimisation model. In order to evaluate the robustness of management strategies to fishermen behaviour two contrasting fleet dynamics were investigated, a traditional dynamic and a profit maximisation dynamic. In the scenarios where landings obligation applies, the TAC advice is given in terms of catch instead of landings and all the catches are counted against the quota share. Although the fleets catch a large number of stocks only few of them are assessed by ICES. In the model, hake, monkfish, megrims, blue whiting, horse mackerel and mackerel are modelled explicitly while the rest of the stocks caught have been introduced in an aggregated way.

Using current reference points the system is biologically sustainable for all the stocks, independently of the fleet dynamics used. However there was a high probability of falling below MSYBtrigger when multi-stock reference points were used. The economic performance of the fleet was very different using traditional or profit maximisation fleet dynamics. Both approaches represent extreme plausible options for the dynamic of the fleet and presumably the true dynamics will be somewhere between both. The difference was especially significant in the case of drift netters for which the economic result was threefold using profit maximisation dynamics. The effort exerted, and hence the employment, was also higher in the case of profit maximisation dynamics. The multi-stock reference point combined with landing obligation results in higher profits without compromising the sustainability of the stocks. Hence, the impact of landing obligation in the fleets can be overcome using an integrated approach to generate TAC advice. In this type of highly mixed fisheries the quota of the stocks subject to the TAC and quota system is not only important by itself but because they allow fishing other valuable stocks not subject to the system. This issue will become especially important under landing obligation.

A regional (Galicia) and sectorial (fishing industry) focused survey carried out among the members of FREMSS (regional –Galician- fishers NGO) showed that the main concern of fishers was the stability of fishing possibilities. Both the workshop and survey demonstrated that stakeholders were interested in a yield maximisation and expected fisheries management objectives to provide increased catches. They considered cost management a private decision dependent on their own strategy as commercial companies. Further, the stakeholders discussed the manner in which they were prepared to advise the fishery managers. Finally, the stakeholders and, in particular, the fishers were willing to invest in the fishery.

Maximisation of the inclusive governance was an explicit target from the stakeholder’s perspective. While this is a general aim, it does not address the fact that stakeholders have different objectives and face different constraints. This makes reaching a consensus on a single objective for fishery management difficult. Perceptions vary depending on the type of stakeholder (e.g. fishing industry, administration, and environmental NGOs), among those involved in the fishery industry across member states as well as the degree of industrialization of the fleet. Further, stakeholder/scientist collaboration is not free of conflict. Scientific knowledge is often used as the foundation of stakeholder position, but equally often scientific uncertainty is used to promote alternative views. A participatory approach to fishery management that begins with a focus on the objectives of the stakeholders legitimises the process. However, this does not mean that a perfect process is obtained automatically. There might be several challenges in implementation:
- Stakeholder preferences on main management objectives differ depending on who is consulted in the process.
- Issues are context dependent making it difficult to avoid short-term considerations in setting long term goals.
- The process is never fully completed; the time and money constraints change while defining who has to be consulted and by whom.
- It is almost impossible to define a harvest control rule robust to all the situations and in particular to the reaction of the fleets.
Because of these issues, any management proposal should be flexible enough to acknowledge the concept of change and propose guidelines for the re-evaluation of the consequences of the management in place, in order to amend or adapt the settings. Further, the composition of stakeholder composition of the consulted group should be clearly specified at a policy level.
Case Study 5: Widely Ranging Fish

The Widely Ranging Fish case study focused on small pelagic fish in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and tuna in the Indian Ocean. These species are widely distributed and migrate over large distances to spawn and forage. With respect to tuna, multispecies considerations are of great importance together with environmental fluctuations. Myfish contributed to how MSY can be attained within a multi-species context, taking into account changes in the environment. The fisheries focusing on the small pelagic fish in the northeast Atlantic are somewhat different to mixed fisheries, as fleets target one species at a time. In a way, this makes managing the fisheries somewhat easier as focusing on single-species approaches is often not too far from reality. An important aspect, however, is the role of these fishes in the ecosystem as food for others. These elements were of prime interest in the widely ranging fish case study, relating MSY aims to GES or studying how the stock dynamics change with the introduction of the landing obligation.
Given the single-species oriented fishery, the need for flexibility in FMSY targets is low, as mixed-fishery trade-off between species caught simultaneously are less relevant. The maximum allowed change in TAC is an important constraint in fisheries management. Though the management plans are often guided sustainable fishing targets, they have a specific focus on limiting the change in TAC from year to year, thereby securing a more constant flow of fish to the market. Stakeholders identified that trade-offs between TAC and socio-economic targets exist, but given the professional setup of pelagic fishing companies, there was no desire among the stakeholders for scientific analysis and advice based on these trade-offs.
Tuna in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is an area of great commercial interest for European fishing industries. Among others, European fleets target bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack, three tuna species that form the tropical tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean. The Myfish DST illustrates the consequences of management of these tuna species under the MSY framework aiming for high and stable yields, which was indicated as the preferred outcome by stakeholders. Hypotheses on the fish stocks’ interactions with the Southern Oceanic Index (SOI), were investigated together with the possibility of a management system, based on the overall productivity of large pelagic fisheries: Tropical tuna fisheries appear to operate in a single species environment, but in fact make decisions in a multispecies context. This is a salient aspect due to the compensatory influence of the SOI on the main three species considered (bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tunas). In the DST, the effects of reducing fishing mortality in a single species and multispecies environment were compared. Taking multi-species considerations into account made a substantial difference in the perception of stock management. The ability to manage the stocks with low TAC variability for bigeye and yellowfin differs markedly. The catches were similar under both scenarios for bigeye and skipjack but markedly lower for yellowfin under the multi-species scenario. Overall, the probability to meet conservation objectives was higher under the multi-species scenario at values close to FMSY than under the single species scenario where, on average, species must be fished 25% or more below FMSY to meet these conservation objectives. The main driver behind the differences is the climatic influence on the different stocks. Consequently, if management were to pursue single-species management, there was a high risk of exploiting of yellowfin above FMSY. If multispecies targets were implemented, the risk was substantially lower, and resulted in sustainable and precautionary management at values just below FMSY but a considerable loss of production potential.
North Sea and Western Baltic small pelagics
The complexity in the advice and management of herring and sprat in areas IV and IIIa is caused by the overlap between stocks, area and fisheries: two overlapping herring stocks (North Sea autumn spawning (NSAS) herring and western Baltic spring spawning (WBSS) herring), five fleets (three for human consumption and two for industrial use), TACs by area and scientific advice by stock, etc. In addition, there are further ramifications because different member states hold different TAC shares for the different areas. Under the current management regime, the TAC splitting is conducted according to the management plans. Five management scenarios have been evaluated representing five different ways of splitting the TACs for the three fish stocks (North Sea herring, North Sea sprat, western Baltic herring). The complexity of the system and the management process resulted in a sequential addition of rules to the long-term management plan with unpredictable reactions to changes in management of one of the three stocks. Myfish showed that a simpler management plan design, co-constructed among different stakeholders, resulted in adherence to the sustainability of the stock and a higher overall outtake of fish while diminishing the unpredictable and likely undesirable side effects of the current complex plans.
An important outcome of the management reflection workshops was the view that science should not make the decisions but provide advice on the range of potential options within a sustainable exploitation space. In the MYFISH approach, different stakeholder groups were included from the beginning to enable discussions on difficult trade-offs and to provide options for a sustainable exploitation. This led to the co-development of new management strategies, designed to simplify management of small pelagics in the North East Atlantic. Given the high-level engagement of stakeholders in this process, one can truly speak about an inclusive governance system, one of the MYFISH objectives that scored very high when stakeholders were asked what was important for them in fisheries management.
Relative stability is a very important point for pelagic fisheries policy. As these species have the potential to migrate outside of common distribution areas, under e.g. climate change or owing to expansion of the population, fishing opportunities change such as seen recently with mackerel. The results of MYFISH can be translated directly into multiannual plans based on FMSY, including biomass preservation levels to secure food availability to other predators, and including mechanisms that minimize inter-annual TACs.

Potential Impact:
Societal impact of Myfish
Myfish used four different strategic activities to enhance impact of the project from day one:
• Including stakeholders from the onset to ensure that the project remained relevant and was continuously disseminated to key stakeholders
• Developing an operational framework to implement MSY management
• Supporting the decision arena with relevant science
• Targeting communication globally and locally
Including stakeholders from the onset
Throughout Myfish, stakeholders, scientists and managers have met across case studies in a series of workshops to ensure that only the most relevant results and trade-offs were analysed and presented and that the recommendations remained appropriate as the settings changed over time.
In the early stages, the workshops focused on identifying and ranking objectives for the management of a given fishery. Together, participants identified the need for governance to be inclusive, and that stakeholders of all kinds have both a role and a willingness to participate. By having an inclusive process from the beginning, objectives and underlying hypotheses for management could be identified, debated and agreed facilitated a co-creational process where less relevant choices could be excluded, returning an operational set-up for evaluation of management measures. There was broad agreement among participating stakeholders that trade-offs are most appropriately addressed in a participatory approach. This was reflected in the high preferences for Inclusive Governance and the subsequent preference for ranges in management.
Throughout the series of workshops, it was seen as an advantage to keep trade-offs and management as simple as possible. This presents a challenge in most systems and conflicted with the large amount of information required to make informed decisions. Several of the workshops touched on the issues of making the trade-offs understandable to a variety of people and ensuring that the most important trade-offs were included. As the most important aspects differ between stakeholders, this led to suggestions from participants for more complexity while trade-off illustrations were often seen as already being too complex. Striking the right balance between including all key aspects and retaining comprehensible illustrations of the outcome will be crucial to the success of inclusive governance.
All Myfish case studies showed that participation of the stakeholders from the beginning helped to eliminate irrelevant options and settings and the inclusion of their insights helped validate and legitimate the approach. The approach facilitated identification of conflicts between user groups’ objectives and potentially enhances the fishery management compliance. Even when the results of e.g. a MSE model output were not what was expected, the transparency and understanding of the process was a clear benefit. When asked about reactions to limiting constraints or changed management measures, a slight majority of fishers and other fishery representatives indicated a willingness to change as a consequence of more or new restrictive management measures to reach MSY. However, they commented that their “willingness to change” mainly was seen as a result of the lack of alternatives. In the current management approach, fishers considered management a “top-down management” and did not feel included in decisions. As perceptions and knowledge differ between fishers, scientists, NGO representatives, and decision makers, knowledge, information systems, perceptions, issues of trust and recognition of different stakes and interests need to be taken into account more explicitly in fisheries management.

Providing an operational framework to implement MSY management
Myfish brought existing and new knowledge together in a single coherent framework to allow a consistent approach to the attainment of the MSY variants, while respecting local views and priorities. The core purpose of the framework was to provide a guide to good practice in the development of the regional proposals, both within and beyond Myfish. To ensure that the maximum use was made of experience in other areas, an investigation of guidelines for good governance based on experience in other jurisdictions was conducted and used as a component of the operational framework.
In the review of management measures outside EU borders, Myfish interviewed stakeholders and analysed fisheries management outwards from the EU (Australia, Alaska and the Faroe Islands) to investigate (as case studies) various aspects of sound governance from which the EU can potentially learn. As a result best practices and lessons learnt - regarding MSY variants, objective (i.e. aim or goal) setting and implementation processes (i.e. means to achieve objectives), including the strengths and weaknesses, constraints and trade-offs – concerning the overall governance system for the particular fishery have been identified. Detailed accessible summaries of these case studies are available on the Myfish website.

The full series of workshops showed how an inclusive process could work in practice, although the exact characteristics of such a process and in particular how it is embedded in institutional settings were not defined. In the participatory process, aspects of inclusiveness including information sharing, consultation and establishing dialogues were investigated. This led to a co-creation process between scientists and stakeholders primarily using Advisory Councils (ACs) as the stakeholder forum and collaborators when drafting management plans, including agreement on objective settings and the process to deal with trade-offs. Myfish has contributed to the drafting of several multiannual plans (MAPs) e.g. in the Atlantic Iberian waters and the Baltic Sea, bringing the input of stakeholders in defining the important trade-offs into the decision making arena. The experiences from Myfish demonstrate that participatory governance, by engaging ACs and regional stakeholder associations in drafting MAPs and providing recommendations to the decision-making system, is an effective modus operandi to establish a platform for stakeholder-science interaction supporting the implementation of the reformed CFP.
Another element of inclusive governance – multi-level governance – is related to regionalisation in the reformed CFP. There was large expectation at least among stakeholders that regionalisation would allow for genuine multi-level governance opening up for their involvement in the decision-making process. Nevertheless, the way multi-level governance is practiced in the reformed CFP has primarily lead to decentralisation by creating regional mini-councils rather than opening-up for larger stakeholder engagement in the decision-making. The present lack of interaction between regional groups and ACs, and the scientific community during the decision-making process of MAPs at the regional level has to a large degree undermined the positive social acceptability of MAPs obtained through the participatory governance process leading to draft MAPs by ACs. In continued decision making, inclusive governance requires a policy commitment embedding the approach in the institutional framework. However, even without this formalized setting, the participatory process allowed stakeholders to influence the type of information and trade-offs that entered the decision arena.
Supporting the decision arena
Myfish participants were dedicated to bringing their results all the way to management plans. Project participants coorganised ICES/Myfish meetings to support the development of guidelines to define FMSY ranges and produce estimates of these ranges. Further, the participants actively participated in ICES and STECF working groups dedicated to introducing the results of Myfish in advice and draft Multiannual plans for the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Western waters, and the Mediterranean. In total, Myfish partners provided presentations in 4 STECF and 15 ICES working group and the footprint of Myfish is clearly visible in many of the advisory documents and draft Multiannual plan texts.

Leaving space for trade-offs in the decision arena
MSY principles reflect a focus on obtaining continuing high catches to provide food and livelihoods to humanity, while not compromising ecosystems. However, maintaining healthy stocks to provide MSY on a single species basis does not ensure that broader ecosystem, economic and social objectives are addressed. Myfish investigated how the principles of a Pretty Good Yield range of fishing mortalities (assumed to provide more than 95% of the average yield for a single stock) can be expanded to an Optimal Yield space. The Optimal Yield space is a practical concept that can address some ecosystem, economic and social trade-offs encountered and provides a safe operating space for management. While this space adheres to the principles of MSY, it allows the consideration of other aspects to be included in operational management advice in both data-rich and data-limited situations. Furthermore, it provides a way to integrate advice across stocks, avoiding clearly non-feasible management combinations and thereby hopefully increasing confidence in scientific advice.

The European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) gradually implements a discard ban in all European fisheries and under this ban, all catch must be landed and counted against the allowed catch for the stock. Fishing will have to cease once the allowed catch of one stock is exhausted. This provides a substantial incentive on behalf of the fishery to avoid the less productive species in landings. As this can be ensured either by avoiding the catch of the species or through illegally discarding catches, the system is likely to require a high intensity control system to be in place. One way to limit this need is to change the advice for all stocks to avoid clearly non-feasible combinations (e.g. high fishing mortality combined with low fishing mortality for two species caught in mixed fisheries). Concurrent with the implementation of the discard ban, the European Commission has shifted from a focus on F MSY as a point estimate to a focus on FMSY as a range where the proportion of yield obtained is 95% of MSY.

Scientific advice for multiannual plans on annual catch based on ranges for mixed fisheries could have four steps: 1) Determine the single species ranges, 2) Determine which combinations of fishing mortalities of the different species are compatible with mixed fisheries, multispecies and ecosystem considerations, 3) Determine which combinations are desirable from an economic perspective and 4) Determine which combinations are desirable from a social perspective. In the North Sea, Myfish studies provide a demonstration of this for cod and haddock.
Targeting communication globally and locally
Communication has been a key focus throughout Myfish, resulting in a total of 160 presentations, 89 scientific journal papers, and a dedicated volume of ICES Journal of Marine Science. In addition to this, two targeted dissemination meetings were held; a symposium focusing on scientific results and stakeholder involvement in Myfish and similar efforts globally and a policy meeting aiming to discuss how Myfish results are relevant to EU management.
The ICES/Myfish symposium targets and limits for long term fisheries management
Best quality scientific approaches to fisheries management advice and implementation under potentially conflicting objectives were the main topic of the final Myfish symposium held in Athens (Greece) from 27-31 October 2015. The event, held under the auspices of ICES, brought together experts from across the world to discuss targets and limits for successful long term fisheries management. The ICES/Myfish symposium brought together 80 high-level experts from 12 European countries, Canada, the USA, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Japan including internationally recognized key note and conveners. A total of 46 presentations and 6 posters were included. At the symposium, successful case studies from the different geographical areas were presented and discussed to assess possible future implementation in European fisheries management. The symposium program, abstracts and the majority of the presentations given can be found at the Myfish website together with word clouds of the written comments given to each session (
Long term targets and limits are extensively used in fisheries management advice to operationalize the way fisheries management reflects societal priorities on ecosystem, economic, social and institutional aspects. The reflections over the literature and studies presented at the symposium together with the views expressed in group discussions and free text comments were gathered in a review concluding with ten major challenges for the future implementation of targets and limits in fisheries management.
The Myfish policy meeting
The Myfish project hosted a policy information meeting on February 25th 2016 as the project approached the end of the four years duration. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss how the results are relevant to fisheries management, which challenges have been solved and which challenges still remain and representatives of Advisory councils, GFCM and ICES, European fisheries managers, SCARFISH members, NGOs, regional groups and European Parliament members were invited to the meeting. The meeting assembled 76 participants in the premises of the European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, in Brussels, approximately evenly distributed between the groups NGOs, Industry, European Parliament, national managers and European fisheries and environmental managers, scientists and other participants.
The Myfish project coordinator Anna Rindorf introduced the project, emphasizing that MSY needs adaption and understanding to accommodate sustainability of stocks, ecosystems, economic and social considerations, rather than wholesale replacement. The meeting was a mixture of scientific presentations on selected topics and interactive sessions including online voting and group work. All presentations from the meeting are available here:
After an introduction to MSY and trade-offs, the interactive sessions engaged the participants to clearly demonstrate that the amount of information on e.g. yield, ecological, economic and social aspects greatly influences which fisheries management goals seem most appropriate. There was a lively discussion following the presentation touching on topics such as whether employment would be a National policy situation or a regional fisheries management issue and whether rebuilding stocks will lead to increased employment or increased yield to participants in the fishery. The conclusion was that the more information is given, the more views and opinions change. Further, even though MSY is stated in legislation, in reality one cannot maximize everything simultaneously, thus within the text of the law, it is necessary to be operational and have room for interpretation. Following this session, 76% of the participants which gave their opinion thought the presented DSTs could provide useful input for decision-making if explained by a scientist whereas only 26% of the participants which gave their opinion thought the presented DSTs could provide useful input for decision-making if not explained by a scientist. 26-32% abstained from giving their opinion on the questions.
The concept of FMSY ranges as an approach to MSY management was discussed in detail. Substantial concern was expressed around whether fishing in different parts of the range could be considered equally sustainable. The ranges were considered as a way to mitigate mixed-fish issues in relation to the discard-ban.

In discussions of the role of social acceptability and inclusive governance in MSY management, it was commented that transfer of knowledge through a participatory process should be transparent, which is not currently the case. Key questions should be discussed and facilitated in cooperation. The transfer of information from science to management is not generally working ideally. It was recognized that MSY changes over time, and that management therefore should be adaptive. It was discussed how and if adaptive management could be conducted under the current CFP. It was suggested that scientists should define the ‘safe space’, and a socioeconomic ‘filter’ can then be applied to further limit feasible management options. Inclusive governance was considered useful to provide transparency and ownership and to understand different objectives and means. The governance capacity of existing groups can be used if they are given a clear mandate. Socially acceptable decisions are important to decision-makers and it should be made obvious how this can be facilitated by inclusive governance. It is important to ensure the inclusive process does not exclude certain people. Inclusive governance requires commitment, time and effort, so perhaps at times will need to be short-circuited in cases of urgent decision needs

Conclusions and challenges remaining

The Myfish project has been a journey into the unknown attempting to satisfy the broad range of ecosystem, economic, social and governance objectives while the new CFP was only just entering into force. Myfish challenged participants and the NGO, industry and management stakeholders joining the process with high aspirations to provide the scientific advice needed to make relevant, effective and informed policy decisions. A large part of this work involved identifying criteria which are clearly undesirable and other criteria that are both desirable and feasible. The main conclusions after this process are:

1. The principle of MSY can be expanded from single to multiple interacting species and fisheries, as well as to ecosystem, social, and economic objectives
2. Fisheries yields in biomass and/or economic terms can be optimised (MSY and MEY). Social and ecosystem objectives are best used as constraints on the biomass or economic optimisation. In other words, solutions that maybe attractive in terms of yield, but that compromise ecosystem or social sustainability should be avoided.
3. An inclusive process of problem framing, management reflection, modelling scenarios and systematic evaluation of modelled outcomes was demonstrated and this operational framework is key to defining strategic objectives for local fisheries management
4. The implementation must be adaptive to follow the variation in processes both in the ecosystem and in economic and social aspects, as well as the specific characteristics of individual fisheries
5. Options, modelled scenarios and outcomes need to be presented in consistent and comprehensible formats to ensure broad and effective stakeholder participation
6. Decision support tools need to present choices and particularly trade-offs in a format that is readily understandable, and ideally would allow users to experiment with these choices
7. European MSY results are recognised as being at the innovative forefront of management advice, and incorporating a consistent and inclusive framework to extend MSY to a wider set of criteria enhances this leading role
8. Further work is needed on developing MSY ranges that provide “Pretty Good Yield” rather than focusing on specific reference points, and that allow flexibility to work within social and ecosystem constraint

List of Websites:

Anna Rindorf

Project Manager:
Ole Henrik Haslund

DTU Aqua
Technical University of Denmark
National Institute of Aquatic Resources
Charlottenlund Slot Jægersborg Allé 1
2920 Charlottenlund
Direct +45 3588 3300

Related information


Ole Henrik Haslund, (Research Coordinator)
Tel.: +45 35883393
Fax: +45 33883333
Record Number: 189882 / Last updated on: 2016-10-07