BlueBRIDGE addresses several challenges related to the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, particularly those related to:
- stock assessment;
- the establishment of a Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries Knowledge base;
- the production of aquaculture products and the production of maps of vegetation types and human impacts on them to enable ecosystem degradation analysis (Protected Areas Impact Maps).
Support to stock assessment
Stock assessment is a scientific process aimed at providing fisheries managers with knowledge and indicators (e.g. current catch levels, abundance, and fishing mortality Maximum Sustainable Yields) to be used for the regulation of fishery stocks (harvested or managed unit of fish populations). A stock assessment framework is used by resource managers, scientists, and students to understand the status and trends of marine fishery resources. A stock assessment process starts with the collation and harmonization of data among the participating scientists, and the data formatting to provide input to dedicated assessment software. Algorithms are run multiple times to assess the sensitivity to various hypotheses and parameters. When consensus is reached, model outputs are published together with a narrative, and constitute a stock status report. This is a slow and costly process.
The challenge in stock assessments is to find or produce quality data and robust models to estimate biological parameters in order to determine fishing limitations related to the stock biomass and reproduction rate. The EU recommends that the limit for catch should be set to a value that does not compromise the species reproduction capabilities (Maximum Sustainable Yield or MSY). For many stocks, MSY today has reached an upper limit, and many commercial species are overfished or severely depleted. Currently there are many data-poor stocks where such limits are difficult to establish, and scientists have a real need for a data and computation platform.
There are several approaches in place, such as surplus production models, statistical catch at age models, and virtual population analysis models, mass balances, time dynamic simulations, spatial and temporal dynamic impact models, catch only based MSY (e.g. CMSY), or ecological models (e.g. Ecoscope, Ecoscope with EcoPath, EwE). With the ever-increasing amounts and granularity of data, there is a need to produce more timely and accurate projections of stocks, and the possibility to apply new paradigms to catch and environmental data. The increasingly sophisticated models are becoming impossible to manage for individual scientists. The major problems affecting existing approaches include:
- computing capacity limitations,
- data access limitations, and
- incompatibility in model output.
For computing catch limitations, a number of stock assessment models have been developed, e.g. by FAO and IRD. However, these models are becoming too demanding to be executed on researchers’ machines.
Limitations are also felt in the areas of data granularity, spatial data availability, and accessibility. Many data owners lack facilities to share disaggregated data because of technical or data formatting limitations and, during assessment working groups, much time is spent on data formatting instead of actual assessments. The current emergence of larger frameworks for managing entire food-web-based models requires swapping smaller model output to serve as input for larger models. An infrastructure that can host and orchestrate these food-web-based models is missing, and model output is difficult to re-use in another context.
BlueBRIDGE is working to implement VREs able to effectively support stock assessment (See Stock Assessment VRE).
The establishment of a Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries Knowledge base
A global record of stocks and fisheries is essential in almost every scenario dealing with fisheries and stock assessment, including reporting, aggregated status summaries, and authoritative references for general public including responsible seafood consumers. It is not currently possible to integrate the fragmented data into a global dynamic register of spatio-temporal explicit knowledge base on fisheries stocks. Currently, the approximately 2,000 described stocks cannot be viewed, queried, or assessed from a single entry point. The assessment work on stocks and fisheries requires expertise from many domains. It is currently supported by international initiatives with distinct goals, remit, and coverage, such as the FAO-led FIRMS information sharing partnership among RFBs, University of Washington’s Ramm Legacy Stock Assessment database, FIN’s FishBase, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s FishSource. The dynamic integration of these sources as part of a Global Record of Stock and Fisheries is seen as a critical step towards achieving a comprehensive coverage of status reports. There is a huge societal need to understand the provenance of aquatic products to understand the impact the extraction has on the environment. Such a global system would provide a clear incentive to the fisheries sector to inform society of the provenance of aquatic products in the market chain, and this can only be managed with engagement from both producers and the trading sector, which will contribute to the activity through the self-funded activity of SFP.
Today, a comprehensive mechanism to support the before mentioned processes does not exist. However, the community data flows are typically accompanied by best practices related to their management and dissemination.
Find out more on the Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries Knowledge Base VRE.
Detection of aquaculture structures
The growing human demands on the environment are not without risk, and the challenge is to find a cost-effective and balanced set of tools for managers to discover the sites and sizes of production facilities, to understand their position in the human and natural environment, and to achieve a regional view on currently fragmented spatial management areas, where measures apply to regulate human impact on the natural environment. This is also recognized by the EU in its Blue Growth Maritime Spatial Planning challenge. This information is essential to assist managers in their efforts to conserve aquatic ecosystems and understand its natural capital.
BlueBRIDGE aims to address two specific challenges:
- To effectively and efficiently produce aquaculture products (maps of human activity and natural zones) contributing to an aquaculture atlas compliant with NASO standards (See the Aquaculture Atlas Generation VRE);
- To support the efficient and effective production of maps of vegetation types and human impacts on them to enable ecosystem degradation analysis (See the Protected Areas Impact Maps VRE).