Demands for advice on fisheries and environmental management often outstrip scientists' capacity to supply it. The imbalance would be smaller if some of the advice could be based on principles rather than tailored case-by-case analyses, where I define principles as "evidence-based rules that underpin scientific advice on management options and reduce uncertainty about decisions and outcomes with fewer resources than tailored case-by-case analyses". I consider the role, development, existing and potential uses, strengths and weaknesses of principles in underpinning advice, and how principles might complement methodological innovations and risk assessment. The extent to which principles might replace case-by-case analyses is expected to depend on structures and processes in the management system, particularly the treatment of uncertainty and risk. If advice based on principles is seen as less salient, credible, and legitimate than advice developed from case-by-case analyses then this could lead to political push-back or non-compliance with management measures, transferring costs from the advisory process to other parts of the management system. In general, I propose that principles provide the greatest benefits in a management system when they address complex advisory issues that lead to advice on management measures with relatively small social and economic consequences or when they simplify parts of an advisory process leading to management measures with a range of consequences. Notwithstanding limits on their application, further development and uptake of principles could reduce demands for case-by-case advice on fisheries and environmental management. A formalized challenge, testing, and updating process for principles, supported by an audit trail, would encourage and increase their use. The development of principles would provide a new focus for the targeting, review, and uptake of research. Spatial planning initiatives, the emergence of marine protected area networks, and other changes in management measures can be treated as experiments to inform development and testing of principles.
- marine protected areas