ICES meets marine historical ecology: placing the history of fish and fisheries in current policy context

Georg H Engelhard (Lead Author), Ruth H Thurstan, Brian R MacKenzie, Heidi K Alleway, R Colin A Bannister, Massimiliano Cardinale, Maurice W Clarke, Jock C Currie, Tomaso Fortibuoni, Poul Holm, Sidney J Holt, Carlotta Mazzoldi, John K Pinnegar, Saša Raicevich, Filip AM Volckaert, Emily S Klein, Ann-Katrien Lescrauwaet

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69 Citations (Scopus)


As a discipline, marine historical ecology (MHE) has contributed significantly to our understanding of the past state of the marine environment when levels of human impact were often very different from those today. What is less widely known is that insights from MHE have made headway into being applied within the context of present-day and long-term management and policy. This study draws attention to the applied value of MHE. We demonstrate that a broad knowledge base exists with potential for management application and advice, including the development of baselines and reference levels. Using a number of case studies from around the world, we showcase the value of historical ecology in understanding change and emphasize how it either has already informed management or has the potential to do so soon. We discuss these case studies in a context of the science–policy interface around six themes that are frequently targeted by current marine and maritime policies: climate change, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem structure, habitat integrity, food security, and human governance. We encourage science–policy bodies to actively engage with contributions from MHE, as well-informed policy decisions need to be framed within the context of historical reference points and past resource or ecosystem changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1386-1403
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
Early online date11 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • history
  • management
  • marine conservation
  • marine historical ecology
  • science–policy interface
  • shifting baseline
  • sustainable exploitation

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