Sustainable fishing industry and environmental risks

The multi-disciplinary IBAM project to chart the environmental and fisheries induced risks in the Baltic Sea area presented its findings in a seminar on Friday, 25 May. The team of researches took on the task of finding out how the various risk factors affect the ecosystem in the Gulf of Finland.

Sustainable fishing industry and environmental risks

– It is essential to study the total impact of all the risk factors, not just the individual risks, says researcher Inari Helle, summarising the focus of the project.

The project looked into the impacts of eutrophication, oil spills and harvesting in the Gulf of Finland. Within the studies models were created of the development of Baltic herring populations and the spread of common reed, among others. In the case of oil spills, in the Gulf of Finland there are close to one hundred of such species, that have threatened status in the IUCN classification, and which are vulnerable to oil spills.

Researchers estimate that overfishing of Baltic herring has already caused losses of up to EUR 440 million for the fishing industry in the Baltic Sea area. Recovery of the Baltic herring population to a sustainable level is likely to take two decades. Interviews show that people living in the coastal area already consider common reed the third most serious environmental concern.

The aim of the IBAM project was to collect information from various sources, using various methodological approaches, and then combine the probabilistic knowledge into an overall probability model. This way, useful information could be gathered to support decision-making, and tools were created for risk management. In the cases of herring and common eider, the results show, that the most effective way to manage the risks is to manage the harvesting. Management of the environmental risks alone is too uncertain way to safeguard the populations.

The Australian experience

Tony Smith from Australia had been invited to speak at the seminar. Last year, Smith received the Kungsfenan award for his work to advance sustainable fishing industry. He has developed methods of assessing the environmental risks and strategies of the fishing industry.

Even though Smith is an active specialist, he doesn't wish to push politicians towards any particular solution.

– As a scientist, I merely present the options and describe their consequences. I wish to help decision-makers see the benefits and drawbacks of the different measures.

The models and evaluation methods that Smith uses have also been used in national and international applications. Cooperation between various groups has led to good financial and ecological results.

– In Australia, politicians, researchers and civic organisations have been successfully brought together to make decisions, Smith says.

The IBAM research project and final report »»

Kungsfenan – The Swedish Seafood Award »»

Comment on Facebook »»

Text: Jaakko Belt
Photo: 123rf
11.6.2012
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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