Ecosystem-based management can contribute to cooperation in transboundary fisheries: The case of pacific sardine

Transboundary fish stocks complicate sustainable fishing strategies, particularly when stakeholders have diverse objectives and regulatory and governance frameworks. Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) in the California Current is shared by up to three fishing nations— Canada, the United States, and Mexico—and climate-driven abundance and distribution dynamics can complicate cooperative fisheries, leading to overfishing. This study builds on previous analyses by integrating ecosystem linkages into a game theory model of transboundary sardine fisheries under various climate scenarios. Cooperative fishing strategies that account for the ecosystem-wide value of sardine as forage for other species result in increased economic benefits compared to strategies that only account for the single-species value of sardine fisheries to a given fishing country. Total ecosystem landed value is maximized at a sardine fishing rate only somewhat lower than sardine FMSY, which is more precautionary but still allows the fishery to operate. Incorporating ecosystem dynamics into management-applicable models can highlight ways in which ecosystem-based fisheries management can improve both sustainability and profitability and help managers prioritize wider ecological research. Ecosystem-based management will be increasingly required to understand and adapt to the observed rapid shifts in species distributions due to climate change, and to design strategies to achieve sustainable and profitable fisheries amidst changing ecosystems.