Inderscience Publishers

Fisheries management in a sea of uncertainty: the role and responsibility of scientists in attaining a precautionary approach

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On the political level, there is now an agreement that the fish stocks in the North Sea should be managed in accordance with the precautionary principle. The goal of this paper is to show that fisheries scientists will have to adapt to the new requirements represented by this principle, first and foremost by adjusting the model of decision-making in a way that facilitates communication of the uncertainties involved in their advice to the managers and stakeholders. The paper consists of three parts. First, a general description of fisheries management in the North Atlantic area managed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is presented; second, the collapse of the North Sea herring stock is used as a case to illustrate the uncertainty involved in fisheries management and how it has been handled by scientists and managers; finally, the obligation of scientists involved in fisheries research in relation to the political goal of a precautionary management is discussed.

Keywords: fishery management, herring, precautionary approach, scientists', responsibility, uncertainty

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