Helsinki/Leipzig. Professional fishery is in many sea areas a serious ecological threat to the maritime environment. On the other hand, changes in the environment, e.g. the increase of fish-eating animals like seals and cormorants, may impact the fisheries. One of the new guiding principles of political decision-making in fishery issues is that a holistic "ecosystems approach" should be used instead of traditional protection of fish populations.
The international research project IBEFish, which was led by the Finnish Environment Institute, surveyed the role of participation and interaction in decision-making in new circumstances.
The environmental perspective has already been established in legislation and international conventions on fisheries. However, on the implementation level the ecosystems approach is still in an elementary phase. If fisheries are to be sustainable in the future, new decision-making approaches and structures are needed for ecosystems threatened by fisheries and for regions in which environmental changes threaten the profitability of fisheries. By such measures it is possible to support interaction between various interests and perspectives and to promote versatile use of new information about the maritime environment.
The new ecosystems approach to fishery regulation is a great challenge. Fisheries must be regarded in relation to numerous other uses of maritime resources. The interactions between those other uses, as well as many other ecological, economical and social factors, must be taken into account. The observations on the role of participation in decision-making on fishery issues proved that major decision-makers and actors can be found in several different sectors and on all levels - from the EU to the local level.
The decision-making process is therefore very complicated, and such processes as production and propagation of information, or distribution of costs, may be difficult to organize. As a consequence, the development of constructive interaction may be retarded, and the credibility of politicians who speak for the protection of marine ecosystems may suffer.
The IBEFish project was funded by the European Union´s 6th framework programme for research. The project was carried out by SYKE and its partners, the universities in Aalborg, Gothenburg and Newcastle, and the Helmholtz Centre for Environment Research (UFZ) in Germany.
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