6 Values Drive Fish Conservation

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. . . . In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.

—Leopold 1949

Learning Objectives

  • Describe multiple value orientations of people.
  • Apply the notions of values, rules, and knowledge as aspects of decision-making contexts that enable or constrain adaptation.
  • Apply appropriate approaches for fish conservation and management that match values and knowledge in a particular place.
  • Adopt and justify use of existing seafood certification initiatives.

2.1 Introduction

Values, the importance or usefulness of something, are important influences on how people will behave regarding uses of fish. Imagine that your favorite fish is a wild Cutthroat Trout. If so, it is likely that you value spending time in the wild places. Contrast that with a resident of a small Pacific Island where fish may be the only source of protein. This island resident values fish for providing essential nutrition. Whether you are inclined to engage in activities to protect nature depends on your experiences, values, and beliefs about natural environments.

The theory of emotional affinity explains that a person’s ties to nature depend on the importance of spending time in nature, sharing positive experiences and feelings in nature (Kals et al. 1999). Another theory, the value-belief-norm (VBN) theory, postulates a causal relationship from values to beliefs, norms, or attitudes (Figure 2.1; Stern 2000). These complementary theories may be used to explain behaviors that involve nature (Fulton et al. 1996; Jacobs et al. 2012). People derive value from their relationship to fish or fishing, and these values are important to their well-being. In creating conservation plans it is critically important to consider the individual’s internal value orientations, which are stable and central to their beliefs. It is also important that multiple value orientations are included so that many types of fishing are considered in management plans.

Long description available in figure caption.
Figure 2.1: Causal chain of influence between biocentrism, inherent value in all living things, animal welfare expected, and adopt aquaculture best practices. Long description.

Conservation and management plans that are successful at achieving their measurable objectives over long periods of time require passionate leadership, persistence, partnerships, trust, and strategic optimism. While the first two characteristics are possessed by individuals, the other characteristics require participatory engagement to overcome uncertainty and other obstacles. It takes persistence, because finding ways to develop trusting partnerships and to compare values as different as personal well-being, cultural importance, and financial gains in policy formulation is complex. Social acceptance of management actions is a key element of contemporary management. Trust only develops through repeated collaborative interactions between parties aimed to avoid conflict and facilitate management (Stern and Coleman 2015).

Ultimately, questions of law and policy regarding fish conservation reflect deep value preferences. If you need to eat to survive, you will value fish as food. For others whose essential nutritional needs are met, they may desire the experience of fishing more than the nutrition it provides. Fishing fanatics may exhibit values that reflect more general philosophical tenets that may border on religious beliefs (Snyder 2007). Fly fishers often refer to rivers as their church and to nature as sacred, thereby justifying initiatives to preserve these places. Values are classified as intrinsic or instrumental. Intrinsic values are inherent and exist independent of their use to humans. Instrumental values include goods, services, and psychospiritual benefits and are, therefore, utilitarian or anthropocentric. An important difference between intrinsic and instrumental values relates to who must demonstrate harm in disputes. For example, the burden of proof lies with the conservationists if values are only instrumental. On the other hand, if values are intrinsic as well as instrumental, the burden of proof will be on the fishers (Callicott 2005).

The differing value orientations matter for inclusive decision making and policy development for fish conservation. We may also use the term “relational values.” Relational values are all values that can arise out of a person’s or society’s relationship with nature (Chan et al. 2016; Skubel et al. 2019). Ecosystem services, first introduced in Chapter 1, are relational values that include relational, intrinsic, and instrumental values. Imagine that you are the owner and operator of a shark ecotourism company in The Bahamas. For you, the relational values important to you are financial. When we talk with others about fish, fishing, and conservation, we often encounter pufferfish moments. The pufferfish gulps water to increase its size when threatened. While the adaptation protects the pufferfish, it renders it unable to perform other functions. We frequently encounter people with differing value orientations who lack the ability to communicate or understand their perspectives or attitudes. We are like a pufferfish that instinctively avoids conflicts, and we are unable to relate. To deal with our pufferfish moments, we should seek first to understand the values and beliefs of others.

Values can be based on more than simple utilitarian reasons. For example, people in Hawaii and China both have historical preferences for eating sharks. Shark fins were a luxury food item as early as the Sung dynasty (AD 960–1279). In China, shark consumption has always been associated with a belief that the consumer would become strong like a shark, and the shark fin, consumed in soup, was associated with wealth and prestige. As the population of China expanded, more and more of the sharks consumed had to be imported. Currently, Hong Kong is a top global importer of sharks, creating a global shark conservation conflict with Hong Kong fish markets selling at-risk species (Fields et al. 2018). In Hawaii, on the other hand, the shark held mythical, cosmological, and spiritual significance. Today, laws in Hawaii make it illegal to capture, possess, entangle, or abuse any sharks and rays. The Hawaiian longline fishery uses monofilament leaders to prevent bycatch of sharks. The shark consumption story emphasizes how understanding the values and beliefs for human behavior may lead to successful conservation interventions.

Value orientations for wildlife are often classified along two dimensions, labeled as domination and mutualism (Manfredo et al. 2009). Domination values are tied to a belief that wildlife exists for human use, whereas mutualist values arose due to a modernized lifestyle wherein people were removed from direct contact with wildlife and, given the human tendency to anthropomorphize, began to view wildlife as deserving of certain rights or opportunities. Such differing views on values complicate conservation (Table 2.1).

Values Beliefs Actions
Livelihood Manage fish for maximum profit Commercial fishing
Leisure Renewed by contact with wild fish Recreational fishing
Local food Environment sustains us Subsistence fishing
Emotional bonds Comfort from seeing wild fish SCUBA diving

Table 2.1: Examples of values, beliefs, and actions for different uses of fish.

Conservation is complicated by divergent ethical frameworks. For example, ecocentrists will naturally focus on ecological attributes or processes; anthropocentrists do not worry about ecological impacts unless they drive economic or social damages; and accord equal moral consideration to every living being and oppose eradication plans (Epstein 2017). Successful conservation requires that we acknowledge and consider pluralistic values of a diverse society.

Overlapping circles depict values, rules, and knowledge
Figure 2.2: The values-rules-knowledge perspective (VRK) for identifying those aspects of societal decision-making contexts that enable or constrain adaptation.

Globally, illegal and unreported fishing make sustainable fishing impossible and hinder recovery of overexploited fish populations (Agnew et al. 2009). In small island states, such as The Bahamas, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing coupled with inadequate regulations and enforcement, along with other anthropogenic impacts, are the main factors contributing to the decline of Bahamian fisheries (Sherman et al. 2018). Compliance with fishing regulations depends in part on underlying attitudes of the anglers. Are they oriented to catch-and-release angling, fishing for food, or are they tied to fishing in a particular place? Certain regulations may result in reduced participation rather than compliance with the regulation (Murphy et al. 2019). Participation of local stakeholders may lead to improved conservation management strategies that have the potential to improve economic and food security.

A lack of a full understanding of the biological, legal, social, and economic factors hinders the success of fisheries management (Defeo et al. 2017). The decision context should consider the interconnected system of values, rules, and knowledge (Figure 2.2; Gorddard et al. 2016; Colloff et al. 2017). Consider your role in the process of making decisions about setting fishing regulations. Your values may influence the way people select actions and evaluate proposed changes. Rules are norms, practices, and habits that include regulations, legislation, treaties, and ordinances. Knowledge includes evidence and experiential meanings applied by experts and nonexperts in decision making. Your unique knowledge about a fish, the place, and how the fish are harvested should play a role in determining management rules. It is one of several factors in making decisions. The decision-making context involves iterative learning where the decision problem is defined, options are evaluated and implemented, and the outcomes monitored. A richer array of management actions via the values-rules-knowledge framework should enable more sensible and equitable decisions.

Questions to ponder:

What are your dominant uses of fish? What values and beliefs are most important in leading to these actions?

2.2 History of Values in Fisheries Conservation

Many simple solutions—fallacies in some cases—have been proposed to fix the complex problem of fisheries, primarily concerning commercial fisheries (Pitcher and Lam 2010). The essence of the overfishing problem is that human demands for fish and fish products often exceed the sustainable production, and harvesting methods often have negative consequences for the ecosystem. In 1918, Fedor Baranov wrote that “the exploitable stock of fish is a changeable quantity, which depends on the intensity of the fishery. The more fish we take from a body of water, the smaller is the basic stock remaining in it; and the less fish we take, the greater is the basic stock, approximating to the natural stock when the fishery approaches zero” (Gordon 1954).

Furthermore, how we depend on fish for livelihoods or lifestyles or both results in a bias toward our personal interests (Arlinghaus 2008; Cochrane 2008). Each of the following approaches may be of interest in the conservation and management of fish and represent what people value when conserving fish. Differing values, rules, and knowledge illustrate the wide variety of management and conservation ideas that guide people’s actions. You may feel an affinity to some but not all of these approaches.

Privatization arose as a solution from economists extending the legal concept of property rights to public-trust fisheries resources. Fishers are given ownership rights or individual transferable quotas (ITQ) to harvest an allocation of the fishery resources. ITQ theory seeks to use market forces in which harvest rights can be traded, thereby giving harvesters incentives to manage the fishing wisely. ITQs are not property rights but rather dedicated access privileges. While ITQs may reduce the conflicts over scarce fish and end the “race for fish,” in practice they do not always eliminate illegal fishing (Costello et al. 2008; Birkenbach et al. 2017). One well-publicized application has been the Pacific Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepsis), in which the open season in 1990 lasted just six days, and 435 vessels fished subject to unknown weather (Fina 2011). With a short season, processing facilities were inadequate, and few vessels made money. Today, with the application of ITQs, fewer vessels fish over an eight-month season in a directed halibut fishery, and all halibut can be landed in local communities where they are sold fresh. The fallacy of ITQs relates to the belief that ownership promotes good stewardship and social justice is achieved via allocation of ITQs (Gibbs 2009). In other examples, the allocation of catch shares or ITQs has marginalized artisanal fisheries and communities all over the world (Bailey 2018).

Total economic valuation deals with capturing the total economic value of ecosystem services and future generations to sustain healthy and productive fish stocks into the future. Without explicit values, fish are often implicitly valued in policy decisions, and that reduces protections. However, using market-based instruments to place financial values on fishing and ecosystem services will not serve the interests of the poor in society. Economic valuation of saltwater marsh habitats provided a direct link to many marine saltwater fish that depend on marsh habitats during their life (Bell 1997). In this example, economic valuation provides justification for acquiring land for preservation to save it from development. Valuation of fish that are not harvested for commercial or recreational fisheries provides a value to justify preservation of rare or endangered fish (Bishop et al. 1987). Social equity and intergenerational equity concerns are not addressed by conventional discounting using market interests. Adding social and cultural values of fish may result in more perspectives for management.

Laissez-faire strategies presume that if commercial fishers were allowed to manage their own fishing, they would efficiently allocate fishery resources. Laissez-faire strategies value freedom above all. However, many examples prove otherwise: fishers act from the perspective of private interest and will continue to fish even as fish stocks decline. Laissez-faire strategies for fisheries were devised in the seventeenth century and accepted up through the nineteenth century, leading to overfishing of stocks of cod and flatfish. Overcoming laissez-faire strategies continues to this day throughout the world. New England’s commercial harvesters were slow to respond to technological change, as predicted by unrestrained laissez-faire strategies. Rather, they actively opposed fishing innovations (Gersuny and Poggie 1974). Famous fishery collapses attributed to relaxed regulations include the Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (Myers et al. 1997) and the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) in the Caribbean (Whitehouse et al. 2020).

Selective fishing technology is a solution often proposed by commercial fishing interests that imagine improvements in fishing gears to eliminate bycatch and discards and damage to habitat. This approach focuses on regulating fishing gear to achieve conservation goals. Restricting harvest to a limited range of ages (or sizes) can provide long-term sustainability even at high rates of fishing mortality (Reed 1980). Harvest slot length restrictions as applied in recreational angling and Maine lobster fisheries typically outperform minimum length limit rules (Comeau and Hanson 2018; Ahrens et al. 2020). However, improvements in fishing technology sometimes increase the numbers of species caught and result in serial depletions of fish stocks (Berkes et al. 2006).

Recreation fishing regulations are often imposed to fit the unique motivations of recreational anglers and often involve size restrictions or daily creel restrictions. Not all recreational anglers have the same fishing preferences. Participation in recreational fishing varies widely, from ~2% in South Africa to 30% in Norway, and averages 10.5% in industrialized countries. Typically, an angler selects gear and locations for a particular target fish. The continuum between fishing as a contemplative sport versus a competitive sport may lead to conflicts among angler groups. Consequently, the approaches to managing recreational fishing vary greatly and seek to maximize the participation and angler satisfaction rather than harvest.

Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of the ocean where human activities are restricted to achieve conservation objectives, mainly supporting a goal of protecting biodiversity. “No-take” marine reserves are permanently closed to all fishing and other extractive uses, whereas zones of integrated ocean management are MPAs that regulate uses within zones. By protecting against risk and uncertainties from traditional stocks assessments, they serve as ecological insurance policies. Unfortunately, less than 1% of the oceans are in marine reserves and 94% of marine protected areas allow fishing (Costello and Ballantine 2015). Reserves and protected areas are very seldom applied to inland waters. Success of an MPA depends on size, implementation, and enforcement (Sala and Giakoumi 2018). Although the original intent of MPAs was to protect ecosystems within their boundaries, they have also been shown to enhance local fisheries and food security and to create jobs and new incomes through ecotourism (Cabral et al. 2020; Chen et al. 2020).

Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is derived from classical fisheries science and deals narrowly with sustainability in a single-species fishery. MSY has been defined with reference to the maximum catch levels that can be maintained and is based on individual priorities toward catching fish. MSY seeks to find the exploitation rate that results in highest long-term harvest (Figure 2.3).

Consider the basic equation of how change in abundance (N) varies with abundance:

[latex]\frac{d N}{d t \ N}=r\left\{1-\frac{N}{K}\right\}[/latex]

Long description available in figure caption.
Figure 2.3: Equilibrium relation between yield (Y, green curve) and intrinsic rate of population increase (r, tan line) and population biomass. Long description.

where N = abundance, K is carrying capacity, and r is the intrinsic rate of growth (Verhulst 1938). Given reasonably accurate estimates of parameters and fish biomass, this equation may allow determination of sustainable yields (Quinn and Colley 20005). Sophisticated single-species, density-dependent population dynamics models are data intensive and parameter rich, yet they may still miss important features in human and fish dynamics. However, most fisheries of the world are data poor. Furthermore, five major challenges with this approach are the facts that (1) many fisheries catch more than one species; (2) it is difficult to forecast recruitment accurately; (3) landing limits are often disregarded; (4) underreporting has biased the data; and (5) trust between fishers and scientists has been destroyed. An was written in 1977, but MSY is still alive and kicking (Larkin 1977).

Larkin’s Epitaph for MSY

M.S.Y. 1930s–1970s

Here lies the concept, MSY.

It advocated yields too high,

And didn’t spell out how to slice the pie.

We bury it with the best of wishes,

Especially on behalf of fishes.

We don’t know yet what will take its place,

But hope it’s as good for the human race.


Maximum economic yield (MEY) represents the harvest level that maximizes profit, which is typically a commercial fishing goal. MEY seeks to gain economic wealth and is based on individual priority of profit (Figure 2.4). However, in open access fisheries, regulations often fail to control fishing mortality, so MEY is seldom attained. In other cases, subsidies for fishing permit development of fisheries that are only marginally profitable but maximize employment.

Long description available in figure caption.
Figure 2.4: Gordon–Schaefer bioeconomic model of costs and sustainable revenues for a fishery as a function of fishing effort (f). MEY = maximum economic yield, MSY = maximum sustainable yield, and BE = bioeconomic equilibrium. Long description.

Pretty good yield (PGY) is defined as “sustainable yield at least 80% of the maximum sustainable yield. Such yields are generally obtained over a broad range of stock sizes (20–50% of unfished stock abundance), and this range is not sensitive to the population’s basic life-history parameters, such as natural mortality rate, somatic growth rate, or age at maturity” (Worm et al. 2009). In the analysis of 166 global fish stocks, most stocks have fallen below the biomass that supports maximum yield (B < BMSY) but have the potential to recover if the low exploitation rates (u < uMSY) are maintained long enough (Worm et al. 2009; Hilborn 2010). PGY cares mostly about catch levels and is most appropriate in multispecies fisheries, for which single-species analysis is impractical.

Optimum sustainable yield (OSY) is a deliberate melding of biological, economic, social, and political values in determining management targets (Roedel 1975). OSY seeks to incorporate such considerations as the nonmonetary values of recreational fisheries, the conservational value of fish stocks, the sustainability of fishing communities, quality of the fish caught or the fishing experience, and ecosystem integrity. In many recreational fisheries, most anglers are seeking a quality fishing experience where size of fish caught is more important than the total biomass of fish harvested. The idea of OSY has expanded the need for human dimensions information to be collected and incorporated into management decisions (Arlinghaus et al. 2002). For example, there are four types of trout anglers: occasional anglers, generalists, technique specialists, and technique and setting specialists. Acceptable fishing regulations will vary among the four groups, and specialists are likely to oppose trout stocking. Increasing recreational fishing opportunities requires enhancing many nonfishing-related aspects, such as access, water quality, scenery, and other aspects of the fishing experience. In the United States, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that “conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while producing, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the United States fishing industry.”

Community-based management (CBM) lets local stakeholders and coastal communities share authority in developing management rules. This type of comanagement seeks to empower the local fishers and encourage conservation of fish on which they depend for food and livelihood. Some examples exist in the Pacific islands, Alaska, and British Columbia and with Maine lobster and Arapaima in parts of the Amazon. In experimental management of the Pirarucu (Arapaima spp.) in the Amazon basin, the fishers play an active role in management process, such as collecting data and enforcing rules, and thereby increased monetary returns (Castello et al. 2009). While it can be successful, success requires financial investment, local infrastructure, targeted public education, and strong legal support.

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) attempts to incorporate local, cultural information and values in the governance of fishing. While this approach is appealing, in practice, the diversity of local stakeholders may have many ways of interpreting evidence and understanding of nature (Hind 2015). River herring (Alosa spp.) were culturally important to East Coast Native American tribes and First Nations in the United States and Canada. These men and women, by virtue of time spent on the water, had knowledge of the distribution, abundance, and migration behavior gained from firsthand observations. River herring were harvested for centuries and are an important part of the region’s fishing heritage. Furthermore, the fishermen and women were able to detect changes in fish stocks before the changes were evident from data collected by fisheries scientists.

Managers and conservationists can engage in an equitable exchange of knowledge with local fishers to improve knowledge of fish taxonomy, ecological interactions, and seasonal movement and behavior so that TEK complements conventional scientific methods (Gaspare et al. 2015). View the video to learn more about the perspectives of river herring harvesters and other community members who know more than anyone else about the fish in their local rivers.

Precautionary approach involves the application of prudent foresight and considers the uncertainties in fisheries. The precautionary approach values risk avoidance and applies primum non nocere or “first, do no harm” fisheries management. It was first introduced in 1995 in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO 1995). There is little consensus on how the precautionary approach should be applied. Many marine fisheries have an overcapacity of fishing fleets, and some countries subsidize fishing fleets. Consequently, short-term economic pressures dominate. A precautionary approach reduces fishing to restore the population size to above the limit point if it has fallen or is about to fall below that level. The red-yellow-green typology (Figure 2.5) shows the use of both limit and precautionary reference points for spawning biomass and fishing mortality metrics. When a fishery is characterized by fishing-induced habitat damage, a stock rebuilding strategy that incorporates both harvest control rules and marine reserves (a precautionary approach) will outperform a strategy that uses the two control mechanisms individually (Nichols et al. 2018). Because of the gaps in our knowledge and the failure to acknowledge them, regulations often fall short of being precautionary (Abrams et al. 2016).

Long description available in figure caption.
Figure 2.5: Visualization of a harvest control rule (HCR) specifying when a rebuilding plan is mandatory in terms of precautionary and limit reference points for spawning biomass and fishing mortality rate. Long description.

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is the most comprehensive conceptual approach. It focuses on keeping the trophic web intact while calling for (1) taking account of environmental factors influencing growth, maturation, natural mortality, and recruitment; (2) creating accountability for the full footprint of fisheries; (3) making governance broadly inclusive with meaningful stakeholder participation; and (4) integrative management (Beard et al. 2011; Rice 2011). Each of these components is equally important and challenging to implement. For example, the footprint of fisheries includes gear impacts on habitats, mortality because of bycatch of other fish, invertebrates, seabirds, mammals, and turtles, and indirect trophic impacts because of the altered abundances of targeted and bycaught species. One-quarter of 200 fisheries assessments in the United States included at least one type of interaction between the assessed species and its ecosystem, especially physical drivers of habitat and climate, though assessments of diets were less common (Marshall et al. 2019).

While EBM explicitly includes humans as part of an ecosystem, in practice, it often falls short from an ethical perspective that places humans at the apex, benefiting from goods and services provided by ecosystems, as well as controlling use. This is a fishy version of Leopold’s A-B cleavage between utilitarian value versus a broader definition of value in nature (Leopold 1949). Many scholars propose a radical rethinking of the traditional approach to implement ecosystem-based management (Bundy et al. 2008; Berkes 2012; Patrick and Link 2015a, 2015b; Berkes and Nayak 2018). Humans are provided goods and services from the natural resources, and as a result, ecosystems are degraded. An alternative perspective considers ethics, including social justice arguments, and corporate responsibility in a form of governance that shares the power in decision making. We still have a long way to go to fully implement ecosystem-based management.

Ecosystem-services approach is based on the instrumental values provided by intact ecosystems, whereas conventional practices focus on single species or habitats. However, fisheries systems are characterized by complex interrelationships between society and the natural environment. Threats to freshwater fisheries originate mainly from outside the fishing sector; thus, sustainable conservation practices must be considered as integrated parts of a holistic management of (specific) aquatic ecosystems or watersheds. Unfortunately, in many scenarios these three domains (including scientific research) are disconnected, which constrains the application of the ecosystem-services approach (Cowx and Aya 2011).

Naturalistic fallacy is the belief that if we could just go back to the way things were, fisheries and ecosystems would be restored. This type of historically based restoration seeks to turn back the clock when there is no chance of going back. Many ecosystems have been fundamentally altered by overfishing for so long that they are unlikely to recover. A more practical restoration agenda based on achievable EBM could adopt the concept of an optimal restorable biomass (Pitcher and Pauly 1998). But there is no going back to a pristine, historic condition.

Questions to ponder:

Consider a fishery that is familiar to you. Which of the approaches to thinking are evident in the rules and regulations? Are there different types of fishers who may prefer markedly different fishing rules?

2.3 Seeking Sustainable Fisheries

None of the previous ways of thinking has proven consistently optimal for fisheries management. Traditional conceptions of exploitation (MSY, MEY, PGY) may promote an exploitative use of fish stocks with little focus on human or ecosystem well-being. Ways of thinking about fisheries decisions often ignore considerations for welfare, freedom, and justice that are discussed in Chapter 4. Fishery policy goals are visions of what a society desires for its future (Lam and Pitcher 2012). As such, goals are choices to be made before instituting regulations. Failures of fish conservation may result from the widespread failure to consider management of fisheries as a whole system or from inadequate communications between science and decision making. Many large industrialized commercial fisheries have favored economy of things (marketed goods and services) over relationships (embedded in communities and ecosystems). Despite differences in approaches, most practitioners agree to adopt a management-oriented that involves (1) formulating management objectives that are measurable, (2) specifying sets of rules for decision making, and (3) specifying the data and methods to be used, all in such a way that the properties of the resultant system can be evaluated in advance (Karjalainen and Marjomäki 2005). For a fishery to be sustainable, there must be a fishery management system that can serve to adjust fishing pressure to appropriate levels as needed (Hilborn et al. 2015). Where fisheries are intensively managed with such an approach, the fish stocks are above target levels or rebuilding (Hilborn et al. 2020).

Fisheries management is management of people, habitat, and fish. The interplay of diverse human interests, values, and preferences with respect to fishery resources is a global challenge that cannot be easily solved. Rather, conflicts and challenges are to be expected in all but the very simplest fishing situations. For example, the urgent need to feed people may override the desire for sustainable fisheries. Today’s global fisheries operate at an average trophic level of about 3.3, meaning that we are harvesting mostly carnivores that eat herbivores. However, reducing this to 2.3 (eating mostly herbivores) would theoretically increase the world’s food harvest tenfold (Pitcher and Lam 2010). Forage fish, that is, small and medium-sized pelagic fish eaten by larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals—are caught for nonfood purposes, such as reduction to fishmeal, feed for poultry and carnivorous fish in aquaculture, and fish oil used in the food industry. Industrial uses of fish products compete with traditional human consumption of lower trophic–level fish. Evaluation of ethical fisheries and the use of multiple criteria for decision making will change how we manage fisheries (Aguado et al. 2016).

Seafood certification, or ecolabeling, provided by third parties such as the Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, attempts to certify ethical fisheries. Fishing practices changed dramatically in response to public outrage over harvest of dolphins in tuna purse seining, demonstrating that consumer demands can influence fishing practices. Fisheries that meet Marine Stewardship criteria are highly selective for the target species, limited access, well regulated, enforced, and often involve comanagement between government, scientists, and fishers. These third-party certifications of sustainability have not yet delivered on the promise of price premiums, improved governance, or improved environmental conditions (Roheim et al. 2018). Challenges remain in the implementation of seafood sustainability due to potential for confusion about the overlapping goals of a growing range of sustainability initiatives (Figure 2.6; McClenachan et al. 2016; Marine Stewardship Council 2019; Tlusty et al. 2019).

Long description available in figure caption.
Figure 2.6: Three types of seafood sustainability initiatives and example goals of each. Long description.

Do fishers have a right or a privilege to fish? What’s the desired goal of fisheries management? These fundamental questions involve ethical reasoning about values as applied in the local context. In fisheries we are faced with challenges for fisheries management in inland and ocean waters. Inland fisheries contribute over 40% of the world’s reported finfish fisheries and aquaculture production. Inland capture fisheries comprise less than 10% of this reported total, but the actual fish harvest is likely substantially higher (Cooke et al. 2016). The importance and plight of inland fisheries are poorly recognized by society (Youn et al. 2014). Yet, sportfishing is a potent economic industry in many industrialized countries (American Sportfishing Association 2018). To enhance inland fisheries, we need to (1) raise awareness of diverse values of inland fish, (2) balance the multiple use and conservation objectives, and (3) ensure productive inland fisheries given externalities (Lynch et al. 2017). Global marine fisheries can be enhanced via fewer subsidies and capital investments for fishing, precautionary management, and greater equity in distribution of benefits (McClenachan et al. 2016). The language of ethical analyses may assist in addressing these challenges via effective management so that there can still be “plenty more fish in the sea” and a continuous flow of benefits for our future (Watson et al. 2017).

In summary, it may at first appear that our communities have many overlapping core values. Some may feel that they have overlapping core values within themselves. The wisdom of embracing a pluralistic view of these overlapping core values is evident from taking a pragmatic view (Norton 2005), which opens value questions to community discussion and problem solving. Pragmatism is a philosophy that embraces multiple core values and relies on participatory processes to increase listening, build trust, and consciously cultivate a ground of mutual respect (Cooke et al. 2013; Clayton and Myers 2015; Young et al. 2016). Environmental pragmatists believe that the diversity of values should be respected to allow for deliberate, creative conflict mediation and social learning in contrast to some quest for ethical perfection. The use of social media is likely to play a more prominent role in the future (Giovos et al. 2018). No single management approach can be a ; instead, the answer lies in adopting a participatory governance style that works for the local and regional context (Ostrom 1990, 2007).

Questions to ponder:

What values are most relevant to you when you select a seafood product to buy? If you do not eat fish, what are the values and beliefs you hold that led to that decision?

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

—Leopold 1949

Profile in Fish Conservation: Larry Gigliotti

Headshot of Larry Gigliotti
Figure 2.7: Larry Gigliotti.

Larry Gigliotti is Professor and Assistant Unit Leader at the South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, located on the campus of South Dakota State University. He has a BS in wildlife ecology from Pennsylvania State University and an MS and PhD in human dimensions from Michigan State University. Gigliotti maintains certifications as both a Certified Wildlife Biologist and a Certified Fisheries Scientist. His research examines attitudes, values, perceptions, beliefs, and expectations of hunters, anglers, and others related to recreation and resource use. As such, he provides novel information for resource management by understanding the social and psychological determinants of angler behavior and attitude formation and how to involve various publics in conflict resolution and planning.

His first job was as a wildlife biologist in New York and Michigan, and he entered graduate school with a goal of developing unique strengths in research in human dimensions of fish and wildlife. Consequently, he was the first human dimensions specialist hired by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. In this position he piloted several innovations to guide the agency’s efforts to be more responsive to citizens, especially hunters and anglers. In particular, he spearheaded many surveys of hunters, landowners, anglers, and residents. His research examined internet-based surveys and revealed important findings regarding response rates and age-related biases.

As an early researcher on the human dimensions of fish and wildlife, his contributions are unique and varied. His perspective as an agency professional and researcher over his career furthered the status of human dimensions as an essential specialization, which draws on sociology, psychology, communications, economics, recreation, education, anthropology, statistics, and other subjects with biology and ecology to make wise management decisions concerning renewable natural resources. One example of his unique influence is the development of a measurement scale to measure crowding among deer hunters, one of many determinants of a hunter’s satisfaction with the hunting experience. He did one of the early investigations of the effects of illegal harvesting behavior among anglers on common sport fishes. He promoted an ecosystem approach to the Great Lakes Lake Trout rehabilitation and explicitly considered the beliefs and attitudes of multiple stakeholders. His investigations on angler use and satisfaction revealed that the opportunities provided to younger anglers by community fishing lakes enhanced their satisfaction with fishing trips. Most recently, he and his associates examined landowner trust in natural resource management agencies as related to competence and fairness, a rarely studied question.

Larry Gigliotti was an early adopter and developer in the human dimensions field and supported fisheries managers in managing for benefits, reflecting a wide range of social values and segmenting anglers based on attitudes and beliefs.

Key Takeaways

  • People develop both strong positive and negative thoughts, feelings, and actions toward use of fish.
  • Two frameworks, the value-belief-norm and emotional affinity, help to explain how personal values and experiences lead to behavioral norms.
  • People will differ with respect to their values and beliefs.
  • Commercial fisheries globally have relied on the concept of maximum sustainable yield as a management goal for many decades.
  • In recreational fishing, angler satisfaction is more related to noncatch-related factors.
  • An ecosystem approach to fisheries management will require additional research and development before it can be fully implemented.
  • Seafood certification, or ecolabeling, provided by third parties represents the beginnings of evaluation of ethical fisheries.
  • Developing communications and developing partnerships and trust are keys to conservation.

This chapter was reviewed by Larry Gigliotti.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olvAtex8mJo

Long Descriptions

Figure 2.1: Four boxes are connected with arrows showing that biocentrism influences inherent value in all living things, which influences animal welfare expected, which influences adopt aquaculture best practices. Jump back to Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.3: Line graph depicting dome-shaped relationship between yield and fish biomass and linear decline in intrinsic rate of increase. Jump back to Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.4: Line graph depicting dome-shaped relationship between revenues for a fishery as a function of fishing effort, linear increase in costs, and location on curve for maximum economic yield, maximum sustainable yield, and bioeconomic equilibrium. Jump back to Figure 2.4.

Figure 2.5: Regions of safe fishing, a precautionary buffer zone, and stock and fleet overfishing related to spawning biomass and fisheries mortality. Jump back to Figure 2.5.

Figure 2.6: Three overlapping circles: 1) Fair Trade, no forced or child labor; 2) Local, reduced carbon footprint; 3) Eco-label, reduced habitat destruction. Where fair trade and local overlap, socioeconomic development and diversification. Where Eco-Label and Local overlap, improved stock status and reduced bycatch. Where all overlap, traceability. Jump back to Figure 2.6.

Figure References

Figure 2.1: Causal chain of influence between biocentrism, inherent value in all living things, animal welfare expected, and adopt aquaculture best practices. Kindred Grey. 2022. CC BY 4.0.

Figure 2.2: The values-rules-knowledge perspective (VRK) for identifying those aspects of societal decision-making contexts that enable or constrain adaptation. Kindred Grey. 2022. CC BY 4.0.

Figure 2.3: Equilibrium relation between yield (Y, green curve) and intrinsic rate of population increase (r, tan line) and population biomass. Kindred Grey. 2022. Adapted under fair use from Maximum Sustainable Yield, by Athanassios C. Tsikliras and Rainer Froese, 2019 (https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.10601-3).

Figure 2.4: Gordon–Schaefer bioeconomic model of costs and sustainable revenues for a fishery as a function of fishing effort (f). MEY = maximum economic yield, MSY = maximum sustainable yield, and BE = bioeconomic equilibrium. Kindred Grey. 2022. Adapted under fair use from The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery, by Gordon H. Scott, 1954 (doi:10.1086/257497) and Some Considerations of Population Dynamics and Economics in Relation to the Management of the Commercial Marine Fisheries, by M. B. Schaefer, 1957. doi:10.1139/f57-025.

Figure 2.5: Visualization of a harvest control rule (HCR) specifying when a rebuilding plan is mandatory in terms of precautionary and limit reference points for spawning biomass and fishing mortality rate. Kindred Grey. 2022. CC BY 4.0. Adapted from Harvest Control Rule graph by Arnejohs, 2006 (public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvest_Control_Rule_graph.gif).

Figure 2.6: Three types of seafood sustainability initiatives and example goals of each. Kindred Grey. 2022. Adapted under fair use from Fair Trade Fish: Consumer Support for Broader Seafood Sustainability, by Loren Mcclenachan and Sahan T. M. Dissanayake, 2016 (DOI:10.1111/faf.12148).

Figure 2.7: Larry Gigliotti. USGS. 2016. Public domain. https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/larry-gigliotti

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