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Interaction between environment and fisheries - a challenge to management

Final Report Summary - IBEFISH (Interaction between environment and fisheries - a challenge to management)

IBEFISH was a European research project with the following objectives:
1. to share results and theoretical knowledge, acquired during past research efforts, regarding the ecosystem approach in fisheries, focusing on the interaction between environment and fishing locations and on its importance for integrated management practices; and
2. to formulate practical recommendations to improve fisheries' management towards an ecosystem-based approach.

Firstly, the results of completed projects were synthesised and a framework was developed to evaluate participatory decision making based on selected case studies. The criteria of the framework focused on ways in which natural systems were involved in decision making, on institutional, legal and political legitimacy, on social dynamics and, finally, on the costs of alternative decision processes. The utilisation of alternative criteria was necessary for IBEFISH elaboration since participation could not be represented using a single aggregated measure. The selected parameters were grouped in categories whose relevance was assessed depending on context-specific features.

It was noted that participation was utilised, analysed or served as a tool for experimentation within all reviewed projects. However, stakeholder groups were fragmentarily or partially represented in most cases. Doubts regarding the confidentiality of the acquired information, lack of a common language between various groups and different ways of understanding the ecosystems imposed obstacles that were difficult to overcome. Moreover, the objective for environmental protection often opposed to the interests of the fishing industry, while fishermen were usually sceptical regarding scientific projects and advice. It was finally pinpointed that research projects should provide attractive, yet realistic, options be appealing and ensure increased participation.

Five theoretical interpretations of the relationship between the stakeholders' participation and the ecosystem approach in fisheries management were identified. In most cases, only one type of linkages was observed; it was therefore difficult to recognise and justify all potential relationship patterns via the implemented research schemes. More specifically, antagonistic relations were not detected by any of the projects.

IBEFISH principal achievement was the motivation of scientific discussions regarding the management of interactions between the environment and fisheries, which proved to be a difficult, however necessary, challenge for the near future. Furthermore, it was highlighted that institutional innovation was required to implement ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries' management (EBAFM) and that such innovations could be best achieved through a delicate process of social decision making. Finally, significant conclusions regarding EBAFM characteristics were derived.

The undertaken dissemination activities included, apart from the publication of a thematic journal issue, the organisation of meetings and workshops, the development of a project website and the preparation of a policy brief and various press releases. Therefore, the produced knowledge was communicated to target audiences and the exploitation of IBEFISH findings was enhanced.