, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 273-299
Date: 11 Oct 2007

Environmental variability and fisheries: what can models do?

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Abstract

This review is based on 58 climate-fisheries models published over the last 28 years that describe the impacts of fishery pressure and environmental variability on populations and ecosystems and include basic principles of population dynamics. It points out that the incorporation of environmental factors in fishery models has already been done and is of great importance for future models used in the assessment of marine resources. The work is guided by the questions to what extent have these models a) enhanced our understanding of the interrelationships between the environment, the fishery and the state of the exploited resources and b) helped to improve the prediction of population dynamics and the assessment of marine resources. For each of the six most commonly used model categories a case study is critically analyzed. The problems of “breaking relationships” between environmental factors and the biological response used in models, the trade-off between model complexity (realism) and simplicity (data availability) and the potential of multivariate climate indices for forecasting ecosystem states and for use as proxies for combined models are discussed, as are novel non-linear and spatially explicit modeling approaches. Approaches differ in terms of model complexity, use of linear or non-linear equations, number of parameters, forecast time horizon and type of resource modelled. A majority of the models were constructed for fish and invertebrate stocks of the northeast Pacific and the epicontinental seas of the Atlantic, reflecting the advancement of fisheries science in these regions. New, in parts highly complex models and sophisticated approaches were identified. The reviewed studies demonstrate that the performance of fished stocks can better be described if environmental or climatic variability is incorporated into the fisheries models. We conclude that due to the already available knowledge, the greatly enhanced computer power, new methods and recent findings of large-scale climatic/oceanographic cycles, fisheries modeling should progress greatly in the coming years.