Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8576
Title: Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social-ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring
Author: P. S. Levin, T B Francis, Nathan G. Taylor
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Ecosystem Health & Sustainability
Volume: 2
Issue: 4
DOI: 10.1002/ehs2.1213
Keywords: social-ecological system, herring, traditional ecological knowledge,
Abstract:

Forage fishes are ecologically and economically important low trophic level species, and in recent years interest in their biology and management has intensified.   Pacific herring are emblematic of the management issues facing forage species—they are central components of the Northeast Pacific pelagic food web and support important commercial fisheries.  In addition their importance to indigenous peoples have made them cultural keystone species.  We employed a participatory process to promote collaborative priority-setting for this critical forage species.  Working with managers, the fisheries industry, indigenous peoples, and scientists, we co-constructed a conceptual model of the Pacific herring social-ecological system (SES) in the Northeast Pacific.  We then identified a set of questions, that if answered, would significantly increase our ability to sustainably manage the herring SES. Our objective was to generate a road map for scientists who wish to conduct useful forage fish research, for resource managers who wish to develop new research efforts that could fill critical gaps, and for public agencies and private foundations seeking to prioritize funding on forage fish issues in the Pacific. Herring are an archetypal forage fish; however, much more so than other forage fishes, they are at the foundation of cultural and social systems in the Northeastern Pacific.  With this socio-cultural centrality comes complexity for fisheries management.  Our participatory process highlighted the value of conceptualizing the full social-ecological system, overcame disciplinary differences in scientific approaches, research philosophy and language, and charted a path forward for future research and management for forage species.

Description:

Forage fishes are ecologically and economically important low trophic level species, and in recent years interest in their biology and management has intensified.   Pacific herring are emblematic of the management issues facing forage species—they are central components of the Northeast Pacific pelagic food web and support important commercial fisheries.  In addition their importance to indigenous peoples have made them cultural keystone species.  We employed a participatory process to promote collaborative priority-setting for this critical forage species.  Working with managers, the fisheries industry, indigenous peoples, and scientists, we co-constructed a conceptual model of the Pacific herring social-ecological system (SES) in the Northeast Pacific.  We then identified a set of questions, that if answered, would significantly increase our ability to sustainably manage the herring SES. Our objective was to generate a road map for scientists who wish to conduct useful forage fish research, for resource managers who wish to develop new research efforts that could fill critical gaps, and for public agencies and private foundations seeking to prioritize funding on forage fish issues in the Pacific. Herring are an archetypal forage fish; however, much more so than other forage fishes, they are at the foundation of cultural and social systems in the Northeastern Pacific.  With this socio-cultural centrality comes complexity for fisheries management.  Our participatory process highlighted the value of conceptualizing the full social-ecological system, overcame disciplinary differences in scientific approaches, research philosophy and language, and charted a path forward for future research and management for forage species.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Describe the interaction between human activities, particularly harvest of marine resources, and ecosystem function.