Untangling a Gordian Knot that must not be cut: Social-ecological systems research for management of Southern Benguela fisheries

The historical approach of sector-specific, largely top-down management in favor of highly capitalized industry sectors has seemingly left southern Benguela fisheries management in a Gordian knot. The modern systems approach to management of human activities in the oceans forbids cutting through the knot, making it necessary to develop methodology for including a wide range of stakeholders and trading off multiple, conflicting objectives under high uncertainty. Recent research in an interdisciplinary group including researchers and students from the humanities, social and natural sciences has focused on soft predictability and structured decision making in social-ecological marine systems under global change. Using three management case studies from the southern Benguela, i.e. purse-seine fisheries, conservation of the Endangered African penguin and the commercial handline fishery system in the southern Cape, we review how modelling system dynamics with stakeholders, semi-quantitative methodology for the integration of a wide variety of indicators, social learning, communication around shared issues and dedicated trust building have supported softening of boundaries between stereotyped stakeholders, and are contributing to a shared knowledge base as well as to an extended toolkit for management. We highlight promising loops of the knot with a view of generating discussion on how these can be tackled strategically.

A protocol for the intercomparison of marine fishery and ecosystem models: Fish-MIP v1.0

Model intercomparison studies in the climate and Earth sciences communities have been crucial to building credibility and coherence for future projections. They have quantified variability among models, spurred model development, contrasted within- and among-model uncertainty, assessed model fits to historical data, and provided ensemble projections of future change under specified scenarios. Given the speed and magnitude of anthropogenic change in the marine environment and the consequent effects on food security, biodiversity, marine industries, and society, the time is ripe for similar comparisons among models of fisheries and marine ecosystems. Here, we describe the Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Model Intercomparison Project protocol version 1.0 (Fish-MIP v1.0), part of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP), which is a cross-sectoral network of climate impact modellers. Given the complexity of the marine ecosystem, this class of models has substantial heterogeneity of purpose, scope, theoretical underpinning, processes considered, parameterizations, resolution (grain size), and spatial extent. This heterogeneity reflects the lack of a unified understanding of the marine ecosystem and implies that the assemblage of all models is more likely to include a greater number of relevant processes than any single model. The current Fish-MIP protocol is designed to allow these heterogeneous models to be forced with common Earth System Model (ESM) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) outputs under prescribed scenarios for historic (from the 1950s) and future (to 2100) time periods; it will be adapted to CMIP phase 6 (CMIP6) in future iterations. It also describes a standardized set of outputs for each participating Fish-MIP model to produce. This enables the broad characterization of differences between and uncertainties within models and projections when assessing climate and fisheries impacts on marine ecosystems and the services they provide. The systematic generation, collation, and comparison of results from Fish-MIP will inform an understanding of the range of plausible changes in marine ecosystems and improve our capacity to define and convey the strengths and weaknesses of model-based advice on future states of marine ecosystems and fisheries. Ultimately, Fish-MIP represents a step towards bringing together the marine ecosystem modelling community to produce consistent ensemble medium- and long-term projections of marine ecosystems.

Can ecosystem services make conservation normal and commonplace?

Without widespread and immediate changes in human values and activities, massive tracts of natural habitat will be degraded to the detriment of those ecosystems, ecosystem services, and many threatened taxa—in the oceans and elsewhere. Despite this, the conservation movement has yet to devote much attention to the intentional project of widespread norm change. By one logic, the ecosystem services concept offers a means of integrating meaningful conservation into decision making by diverse government and corporate actors, potentially normalizing conservation. But normalizing conservation would require not only the uptake of ecosystem-services concepts but also widespread changes in conservation practice and stewardship values—on a scale that far exceeds what we have witnessed to date.

Pipelines imperil Canada’s ecosystem.

On 28 September 2016, the Canadian government approved what could become one of Canada’s largest CO2 emitters, the Petronas Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal project at the mouth of the Skeena River estuary in British Columbia. The Skeena River is Canada’s second-largest salmon producer, and First Nation communities rely on it.