Alms, Viola, Romagnoni, Giovanni and Wolff, Matthias ORCID: (2022) Exploration of fisheries management policies in the Gulf of Nicoya (Costa Rica) using ecosystem modelling. Ocean & Coastal Management, 230 . p. 106349. DOI

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The Gulf of Nicoya is a highly productive estuary located at the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Previous studies have used trophic models to examine changes in the biomass of key species and in the food web in the last 25 years, revealing an overfished, degraded system with decreasing biomass of valuable target species. The ecosystem degradation was mainly driven by intensive fishing, while climate variations affected resource productivity additionally. This study tested the effectiveness of alternative scenarios including combinations of the current top-down fishing policy and the ban on shrimp trawling, together with a participatory management scenario developed in a previously performed stakeholder workshop. In parallel, the automated fishing policy search of the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) software was used to explore an optimized alternative management scenario. The analysis indicates that the ban on trawling is an important measure to allow for the recovery of certain target species, such as shrimps, demersal fish and their predators. However, this ban would not suffice to substantially rebuild the biomass of all key species in the system. Thus, two possible alternative management scenarios are proposed: in the first one, the economic losses are minimized, ecosystem health increases by 10% (by rebuilding target species biomass) and employment provided by fishing decreases (−15%). In the second scenario, higher economic losses are accepted (mainly for the semi-industrial fisheries sector) which allows for a higher increase in ecosystem health and biodiversity. Both scenarios call for additional reductions in fishing efforts, mainly by the semi-industrial purse-seine fleet and the artisanal longline fleet. This study exemplifies how holistic ecosystem models can be used for management advice, future policymaking and how stakeholders can be engaged in this process.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA1
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Resource Management
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 09645691
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2022 09:05
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2022 08:50

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