Disparate Scales of Process and Nearshore Fishery Management

Public confidence in management of nearshore fisheries is at an all time low. Along the U.S. West Coast, nearly all waters deeper than 20 fathoms (~36 m) are closed to all bottom fishing to protect several species of rockfish from local extinction. No-take marine reserves have been created around the northern Channel Islands as a means of protecting biodiversity and fish abundances. The well-documented decline of fisheries and ecological diversity of nearshore waters has engendered a "crisis-mode" philosophy for the management of nearshore fish resources. This interdisciplinary research project will examine the complexity of nearshore communities and the fisheries that depend upon them. Nearshore fisheries couple natural (ecological) and human (fishery management) processes in an emergent dynamic system that is rich in complexity. The projects goal is to develop a process-level description of nearshore fisheries and their management patterned after California coastal environments. The investigators will examine the emergent complexity that arises due to interactions among chaotic coastal circulations, fished organism life cycles, the productivity and suitability of nearshore habitats, the intensity and nature of fish harvesting, the economics governing fisheries, fishers and fishery regulations, and the bureaucratic system that implements regulations. The aim of these analyses is to assess the balance points among costs, profits, uncertainties, stock viability, and ecological values of nearshore fished environments. Central to developing a predictive understanding of the interactions between flow, fish and fishing is the notion of temporal and spatial scales. The physics, biology, and socioeconomic processes governing this coupled natural-human system operate on inherently different spatial and temporal scales. Without considering the mismatch in scales explicitly, mismanagement of fisheries is likely to continue unabated. Recent advances in modeling coastal ocean circulations, marine life cycle dynamics, the values of information to fishery management, and the consequences of management choices in the face of uncertainty have independently created the pieces necessary to assemble a synthetic approach to nearshore fisheries management. Moreover, large-scale programs monitoring the dynamics of coastal ecosystems are providing the empirical data necessary to parameterize and test these models. The investigators will link these components into new computational and conceptual models that examine optimal management choices in the face of unavoidable physical and biological uncertainty. The issues addressed and conceptual frameworks that will be studied will have broad, global impacts. Declines in fish stocks and yields are not restricted to any nation or geographical region. Indeed, the core problems from mismatches in spatial and temporal scales are characteristic of nearly all marine fisheries. In addition, although fisheries management commonly stops at political borders, ocean flows and fish do not. The ecological scales of coastal ecosystems are inherently international in scope. The international partnerships between this proposed effort and ongoing ecological programs in Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia will expand the regional focus of this effort to global dimensions. This project also will provide educational opportunities across a range of ages. This program will integrate opportunities for interdisciplinary education at elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels as well as through adult programs. This project is supported by an award resulting from the FY 2003 special competition in Biocomplexity in the Environment focusing on the Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems.

Lead Investigator: 
Emergent Properties
Coastal Circulation, biology, socioeconmics
U.S. West Coast
Temporal Scope: 
Spatial Scope: 
Natural System: 
temperate coastal
Human System: 
fishing, econ, regulation