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Globalization, marine regime shifts and the Soviet Union

Österblom, H. and C. Folke. (2015) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370(1659):20130278.


Regime shifts have been observed in marine ecosystems around the world, with climate and fishing suggested as major drivers of such shifts. The global and regional dynamics of the climate system have been studied in this context, and efforts to develop an analogous understanding of fishing activities are developing. Here, we investigate the timing of pelagic marine regime shifts in relation to the emergence of regional and global fishing activities of the Soviet Union. Our investigation of official catch statistics reflects that the Soviet Union was a major fishing actor in all large marine ecosystems where regime shifts have been documented, including in ecosystems where overfishing has been established as a key driver of these changes (in the Baltic and Black Seas and the Scotian Shelf ). Globalization of Soviet Union fishing activities pushed exploitation to radically new levels and triggered regional and global governance responses for improved management. Since then, exploitation levels have remained and increased with new actors involved. Based on our exploratory work, we propose that a deeper understanding of the role of global fishing actors is central for improved management of marine ecosystems.

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Keywords: ecosystem approach, fisheries management, governance, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Scotian Shelf

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