Overexploitation of marine fisheries remains a serious problem worldwide, even for many fisheries that have been intensively managed by coastal nations. Many factors have contributed to these system failures. Here we discuss the implications of persistent, irreducible scientific uncertainty pertaining to marine ecosystems. When combined with typical levels of uncontrollability of catches and incidental mortality, this uncertainty probably implies that traditional approaches to fisheries management will be persistently unsuccessful. We propose the use of large-scale protected areas (marine reserves) as major components of future management programs. Protected areas can serve as a hedge against inevitable management limitations, thus greatly enhancing the long-term sustainable exploitation of fishery resources. Marine reserves would also provide an escape from the need of ever more detailed and expensive stock assessments and would be invaluable in the rehabilitation of depleted stocks.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Feb 1, 1998
Keywords: bet hedging ; controlling overexploitation ; diversification ; fisheries ; irreducible scientific uncertainty ; marine protected areas ; marine reserves ; precautionary principle in fisheries ; risk aversion
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