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A bioeconomic optimization approach for rebuilding marine communities: British Columbia case study

  • C. H. AINSWORTH (a1) and T. J. PITCHER (a1)

Many marine ecosystems are depleted of living resources as a result of long-term overexploitation. Restoration plans should perhaps consider the entire ecosystem as opposed to single species, yet there is currently no suitable framework available for the design and comparison of whole-ecosystem restoration trajectories. This paper presents a novel addition to Ecopath with Ecosim's policy search routine, the ‘specific biomass’ objective function, which allows gaming scenarios to be run using selective fishing as a tool to rebuild depleted marine ecosystems or modify them into a preferred state. In this paper, restoration scenarios aimed to restore an ecosystem in Northern British Columbia to a state similar to the historic ecosystem of 1950 AD. Restoration plans that achieve restoration quickly tend to require a large sacrifice in fishery profits, while slower plans allow for continued harvest benefits. A convex relationship between profit and recovered biodiversity suggests that there may be an optimal rate of restoration. Cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that conservative restoration plans can offer a rate of return superior to bank interest when viewed as an investment in natural capital. Increasing the selectivity of fishing gear improves the economic outlook.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Cameron Ainsworth, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, 2725 Montlake Boulevard, East Seattle, WA 98113, USA Tel: +1 202 860 3289 e-mail:
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T.J. Pitcher , C.H. Ainsworth , E.A. Buchary , W. Cheung , R. Forrest , N. Haggan , H. Lozano , T. Morato & L. Morissette (2005) Strategic management of marine ecosystems using whole-ecosystem simulation modeling: the ‘back to the future’ policy approach. In: Strategic Management of Marine Ecosystems, (NATO Science Series IV. Earth and Environmental Sciences, 50), ed. E. Levner , I. Linkov & J.M. Proth , pp. 199258. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer: 313 pp.

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Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
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