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  • Final Report Summary - ECOST (Ecosystems, societies, consilience, precautionary principle: development of an assessment method of the societal cost for best fishing practices and efficient public poli

Final Report Summary - ECOST (Ecosystems, societies, consilience, precautionary principle: development of an assessment method of the societal cost for best fishing practices and efficient public poli

The main aim of the ECOST project was to develop a new approach to assess the societal cost of fishing activities and fishing policies. By societal cost we mean all costs linked to fishing activities: these may be ecological (alteration of the capacity of a system), economic (all costs linked to production, management, subsidies, and external factors), social (linked to choices made in public policy, food safety, provision for national or international markets, the eradication of poverty, and to development models (small scale fishing versus industrial fishing)).

The project has to be seen from a wider perspective of equipping public decision-makers and society with the appropriate tools and methods needed to take into account, not only immediate economic and social profits, but also the costs engendered by fishing activities which relate as much to ecosystems as to societies.

The geographical dimension of the work was spread over three continents (three countries for each continent) that are characterised by ecosystems of coastal upwelling (West Africa), delta (South East Asia) and coral reef (Caribbean). Within each region / ecosystem (eco-region) several fisheries have been selected as representative of global fishing activities. Furthermore, a marine protected area was chosen in order to establish a comparative analysis within the said eco-region, and to serve as a reference point. There is a triple advantage to such a choice:
- firstly, it facilitates the comparison of the different ecosystems;
- secondly, it eases the comparison of fishing methods and management (public policy); and
- thirdly, it makes possible the comparison of societies based on the choices they have made and their preoccupations regarding various marine resources.
The main body of the work therefore focused on the development of a model that addresses the societal cost of fishing activities, which can reflect the reality of such varied and contrasting coastal regions as perceived via their ecosystems and societies.

At the heart of the project there is the triple theme of 'marine environment- fishing activities- civil society' thus bringing together the life sciences and the social sciences. The multi-disciplinary nature of the project is encapsulated in the concept of consilience - in order to gain a better understanding of situations that require the expertise of different areas of competence.

The programme has last for 66 months. The work plans were made up of the following:
- WP 1: Study of present-day relevance of available tools and models that were previously used for impact assessments. Questioning of the notions of value, particularly those assigned to ecosystems and monetary valuation. Definition of ecological, economic and social value as accounted for in ECOST. Development of links between ecology, economics and sociology using the consilience principle (nine months).
- WP 2: Development of an articulation platform for data and information (51 months).
- WP 3a: Development of a method for a sociological evaluation (25 months).
- WP3b: Development of a method for a sociological and economics evaluation (23 months).
- WP 4: Development and application of an ecological model to chosen ecosystems (50 months).
- WP 5: Production of ECOST model (nine months).
- WP 6: Calibration and application of ECOST method to fisheries of chosen regions (three months).
- WP 7: Eco-region comparative analysis of societal costs according to the ecosystems, the methods of fishing and the fishing policies (two months).
- WP 8: Comparative analysis of societal costs with MPAs (49 months).
- WP 9: Elaboration of a generic version of the ECOST model (six months).
- WP 10: Public and fishery policy analysis (33 months).
- WP 11: Definition of public policy options towards a better integration of societal costs in public and private decision-making (six months).
- WP 12: Dissemination of knowledge, tools and results of the ECOST project and conceptualisation of a tool for the broadcast of the ECOST method (51 months).

The ECOST project can be summarised in five main activities, which are:

1. Development of far-reaching research into the capacity of traditional models to take into account the reality of ecological, economic and social effects using theoretical considerations, the experience of past application, and a questioning of the notion of value. A theoretical study of the strengths of these models can't be separated from a parallel understanding of the values of nature (resources and functions) that underlie such models. This work on the notions of value is fundamental to the definition of societal costs: costs and values are two sides of the same coin. This first phase of the work (WP 1) has produce a series of reports and papers which evaluate the significance of the different models used to date - and examines how notions of value need to be considered when measuring the societal cost of fishing activities.

2. The construction of an efficient model for societal cost. This model is founded on the close association of economics and ecology, and is constructed in a manner that has the greatest potential for application in the fisheries domain (taking into account as it does the variable nature of resources and marine environmental changes). The elaborated model incorporates a dynamic dimension, an essential element if it is to inform future public policy. The measurable outcome is a dynamic model that allows environmental retro-actions in relation to the ecosystem (WP5 and WP6). To develop such a model, scientists have firstly worked interactively in their own field (WP2, WP3, WP4) so as to facilitate progress.

3. The production of a generic version of the model for social impact. This sees the model alluded to above revised according to the lessons learnt from its experimental application to the three regions / ecosystems. In parallel, we undertook a multi-disciplinary study of the biological, ecological and economic factors that may limit the wider application of the model to other regions / ecosystems in the world. The formulation of the model and its subsequent validation is accompanied by an index of performance (in relation to the quality of the data and the nature of the information that has been gathered, for example), an explanatory manual and the analysis of the limitations of the model. The measurable outcome here is the creation of a generic model for measuring societal costs (accompanied by a framework for aiding in its application -WP 9). In fact, two generic models have been developed: one that works as a plug-in of the existing Ecopath / Ecosim model and one that uses Ecosim as a plug-in of the Economic model. Both models give similar results when running with similar data.

4. Comparison of the social costs of fishing activities. Comparative work has be carried out on three levels: firstly, on the ecosystem one showing the repercussions of using of distinct techniques and practices; secondly, comparison of the ecosystems themselves in order to highlight the responses made by the ecosystems to anthropic pressure; and thirdly, a comparison of ecosystems that have free or regulated access with the ecosystems found within marine protected areas. The measurable result is a comparative analysis of societal costs according to the means of production, and the valorisation of products and ecosystems (WP 7 and WP 8). A few comparative papers have been produced for Asian and African fisheries.

5. Definition of options for public policy through the formulation of certain principles found within the framework of the Code of conduct for responsible fishing (CCRF). The popularisation of the project is one of the best means of valorising the model and ensuring its incorporation in the formulation of public policy in those regions that are heavily dependent on fishing resources (WP 10 and WP 11). The measurable outcome here is the production of an interactive model and a deliberative matrix that generates projections of regional effects once the basic data required by the model is inserted. This constitutes an element of added value for future community research that is disseminated as widely as possible through the website, international conference and workshops. It also maximises the benefits of linking applied science to civil societies needs (WP 12).

The ECOST project has completed all deliverables. The consortium has already submitted and published more than 100 journal papers. About 20 other journal papers are currently on the way to be submitted. The group has edited four special issues in international journals (one on marine protected area in the Environmental Journal, one on job satisfaction in Social Research Journal, one on the Caribbean fisheries in Études Caribéennes, and one on West Africa fisheries Revue de l'ISRA). Two other special issues are on their way: one on the Asian fisheries in Asian fisheries sciences (release in 2012) and one on the economic-ecology interaction modelling in natural resources economics (release in 2012). A third one is on preparation, the topic is the multidisciplinary approach for modelling man-nature interface, it will be published in the international journal of sustainable development (2012). About 17 book chapters have been published already and two books are under review: one on public policy in Routledge, Taylor & Francis group and one on the ECOST results in Willey-Backwell.

About 20 masters and PhD students have been enrolled in the ECOST project: 9 Masters students and 11 PhD students (some will complete their thesis by the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012). A post-doctoral fellow from Madera will visit CEMARE in 2012 for running the ECOST model on the Madera Islands fisheries. Two new PhD students are working on the ECOST model for Chinese fisheries (starting 2011). They are enrolled at the University of Zhongsdan in Guangzhou.

Consortium partners gave 73 conference and 44 workshop presentations on ECOST. The coordinator has presented the adequacy of the societal approach (ECOST approach) for the management of fisheries in African-Caribbean-Pacific countries at the second ministerial conference held in Seychelles (November 2010). The societal approach for managing fishery is part of the ministerial recommendations.

The ECOST model and its approach have the potential to change the way fisheries are managed in the world. The tools and methodologies that were developed allow robust management strategies to be formulated that ensure sustainability of the marine ecosystems at the highest level and provide greater security to fishers and fishing companies (thereby enabling them to make the most appropriate investment or disinvestment decisions). This, in turn, helps preserve the social fabric of communities dependent upon fisheries and also help to diminish their vulnerability. At the global level, the project has a strategic impact on the formulation of national and international policies regarding the governance of ocean and costal zones resources and ecosystems. This leads to the development of more effective policies that have a direct impact on the alleviation of societal problems in developing countries, for example - fish availability, poverty alleviation, external debt, etc. For these reasons, the approach of the project and the ECOST model will be used in the near future to assess the fisheries in 22 countries in West Africa that belong to the 'Ministerial conference on fisheries cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic ocean' (COMHAFAT). The ECOST approach is also part of the strategic action plan of the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group that will enter in force in 2012. The societal approach is the approach chosen to define sound fisheries from the environmental, economical and social perspectives.

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