PUBLICATION Journal article

The management of the blue whiting fishery as complex social-ecological system: The Galician case

In Europe, 88% of fish stocks are being fished beyond Maximum Sustainable Yield and 30% of stocks are outside of biological limits. The blue whiting fishery is also following a consistent trend of a declining, and the EU recently adopted a 93% quota decrease for this species. Despite the abundant literature related to genetic aspects of population structure of aquatic resources, few studies have specifically addressed the link between fisheries management and population genetics. Given potential differences in the behavior of different subpopulations, population genetics has great relevance in the correct interpretation of the evolution of stocks. Ignoring the congruence of spatial scales between the population structure of fish species and management units can result in reduced productivity and local reduction of populations.

This paper adopts the framework of resilience to explore the social-ecological feedbacks between unobserved genetic diversity and human dimension of the blue whiting fishery in Galician coastal communities due to the mismanagement of the fishery in the EU. The results presented here suggest that there is considerable evidence that the currently used management unit is inconsistent with the recent growth and genetic differences observed. The results also reveal that based on the evidence currently available and in accordance with the precautionary principle, the stocks of blue whiting in Northern and Southern ICES areas should be treated as separate in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. The results obtained indicate that unobserved genetic diversity of the fishery can lead to an equivocal reduction of fishing quotas in the Southern area. Finally, the paper also shows that the total economic losses resulting from the 93% quota decrease of the species, which includes effects on the rest of the Galician economy, is 40,081,636 Euros per year. The next Common Fishery Policy Reform offers a great opportunity to reverse the current unsustainable path of the fishery and to accept humans as a component of this marine social-ecological system.

Keywords: Blue whiting fishery, Complex social-ecological system, Economic impact

Villasante, S. 2012. The management of the blue whiting fishery as complex social-ecological system: The Galician case. Marine Policy 36(6):1301-1308.