A spatially explicit individual-based model to support management of commercial and recreational fisheries for European sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax

Nicola D. Walker, Robin Boyd, Joseph Watson, Max Kotz, Zachary Radford, Lisa Readdy, Richard Sibly, Shovonlal Roy, Kieran Hyder

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The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is a slow growing and late maturing high value fish that is exploited by both commercial and recreational fisheries. In recent years, scientific assessments have shown a rapid decline in spawning stock biomass around the UK attributed to poor recruitment (driven by environmental factors) and high fishing mortality. This resulted in significant reductions in the harvest of sea bass following technical measures implemented by the European Commission to conserve stocks. Individual-based models (IBMs) are simulations of individual ‘agents’ of organisms that interact with each other and their environment locally and have been shown to be effective management tools in many systems. Here, an IBM that simulates the population dynamics and spatial distribution of sea bass was developed to assess how technical management measures applied to subsets of the population impact the overall stock. Conventional stock assessment techniques were used to model the processes affecting population dynamics, while the spatial distribution was simulated using a combination of temperature preferences and information from tagging studies. The IBM was parameterised using existing knowledge from the literature and can mimic key assessment outputs used to inform management and advice on fishing opportunities. Utility of the IBM is demonstrated by simulating the population consequences of several key management scenarios based on those implemented by the European Commission, including short-term bans on pelagic trawling in spawning areas, commercial and recreational catch limits and increasing the minimum conservation reference size. The IBM has potential to complement the annual stock assessment in managing European sea bass because it models individual movement, environmental drivers and emergent spatial distribution, thereby providing enhanced predictions of management strategy outcomes that could inform spatial advice on fishing opportunities and policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109179
JournalEcological Modelling
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • European sea bass
  • Individual-based model
  • Management
  • Spatially explicit

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