Ecosystem-based management objectives for the North Sea: Riding the forage fish rollercoaster

M. Dickey-Collas, G. H. Engelhard, A. Rindorf, K. Raab, S. Smout, G. Aarts, M. van Deurs, T. Brunel, A. Hoff, R. A. M. Lauerburg, S. Garthe, K. H. Andersen, F. Scott, T. van Kooten, D. Beare, M. A. Peck

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37 Citations (Scopus)


The North Sea provides a useful model for considering forage fish (FF) within ecosystem-based management as it has a complex assemblage of FF species. This paper is designed to encourage further debate and dialogue between stakeholders about management objectives. Changing the management of fisheries on FF will have economic consequences for all fleets in the North Sea. The predators that are vulnerable to the depletion of FF are Sandwich terns, great skua and common guillemots, and to a lesser extent, marine mammals. Comparative evaluations of management strategies are required to consider whether maintaining the reserves of prey biomass or a more integral approach of monitoring mortality rates across the trophic system is more robust under the ecosystem approach. In terms of trophic energy transfer, stability, and resilience of the ecosystem, FF should be considered as both a sized-based pool of biomass and as species components of the system by managers and modellers. Policy developers should not consider the knowledge base robust enough to embark on major projects of ecosystem engineering. Management plans appear able to maintain sustainable exploitation in the short term. Changes in the productivity of FF populations are inevitable so management should remain responsive and adaptive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-142
Number of pages15
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • biomass reserves
  • ecosystem approach
  • herring
  • sandeel
  • sized based
  • sprat

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