Read all about EBFM workshop

presentations, interviews and a short summary

Stimulating workshop about Ecosystem based Fisheries Management - EBFM

Last week 50+ people from science, policy and fisheries sectors met in Stockholm to discuss how to implement ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM) in the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea Centre, Fisheries Secretariat, and ICES hosted the workshop, which was held at “Bullkyrkan” (or Sweet bread church) in Old Town Stockholm. The cosy atmosphere, together with active and engaged participants, created a stimulating and productive workshop. 

The two-day workshop was divided into three themes:

  • Ecosystem based fisheries management in the unique Baltic Sea context.
  • Development of advice towards ecosystem based fisheries management.
  • Bridging the gap between science and decision makers in fisheries policy (or maybe “between theory and practice in fisheries policy”.

Each theme included a series of keynote talks. The first two themes closed with moderator-led discussion groups and the final themse closed with a panel discussion with representatives from science, policy, and fisheries management .

As the discussions matured, it became clear that issues beyond management of commercial fisheries must be considered. Other interest groups as well as political frameworks and directives besides the Common fisheries Policy (CFP) have to be considered, such as the objectives in the Marine Spatial Planning and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Please find the full report in the linklist below this article.

The presentations of Valerio Bartolino (Mareframe and SLU Aqua), Eskil Krikegaard (ICES) and Rudy Voss (Kiel University) and subsequent group discussions had the same broad message: the basic scientific structure for managing complex biological interactions in commercial fish stocks already exists, however, any actions using this knowledge are highly political. Thorsten Blenckner (Stockholm University) added that the Baltic is a unique region that is affected by many anthropogenic stressors, and that a sub-regional approach might be needed.because different stressors affect regions differently. 

Marcin Rucinski (Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Fish) described how regional policy structures are already in place, but that cooperation between these structures must improve in order to take on the issues of EBFM. Management trade-offs were raised as perhaps the most central issue when it comes to implementing EBFM. It was also clear that both science and the policy structure must improve. There is a two-way relationship between fish stock development and the nature, therefore, a broader perspective in the fisheries management is needed.

Trade-offs must also be understood and clearly defined to avoid different interpretations. This was clearly exemplified in the presentations about the development of the Baltic multiannual plan, by Polish Member of European Parliament Jarosław Wałęsa, and the different interpretations of the MSY concept, presented by Michael Earle (working for the Greens in the European Parliament).

Another issue that was raised in both presentations and group discussions was that to implement EBMF in an efficient and sustainable way, all interest groups must be included and represented. Interestingly, this was not the case in the workshop, given biases in the representations of different Baltic Member States, stakeholders, and genders.Also, it is critical that the right questions are asked before any steps are taken (e.g. presentation by Roland Cormier, Helmholts-Zentrum). 

The importance of including all different perspectives and interests when implementing EBFM was also raised by Dorothy Dankel (University of Bergen), which she dramatically illustrated by the massacre of a cupcake on stage (a view of her presentation is highly recommended).

A much appreciated presentation was given by the Swedish fishermen Bengt Larsson, who described the realities and challenges of small-scale fisherman, and his innovative ways to handle that by selling his catch directly to consumers using social media and phone text messages.

Finally we concluded that the implementation of EBFM is a step-by-step process and that everything cannot be done at once. We should take advantage of the tools and ambitions that already exist. It is a continuous process and both the organisers and participants agreed that it is critical to continue discussing this topic.  To attract a wide range of participants, future meetings should preferably be scheduled back-to-back with other meetings on Baltic management.

Is the baltic sea ready for ecosystem-based fishery management?

After the workshop the Baltic Eye science journalist, Henrik Hamrén, asked some participants about their view on the implementation on EBFM in the baltic sea. This is what they answered: 


Ulrika Gunnartz 

Ulrika is working with the development of a Swedish EBFM strategy at the Agency for Marine and Water Management.

Key messages:

  • We have already started to implement key principles of an Ecosystem based approach in the Baltic and the structures are there, however, fish is managed in isolation. 
  • Fish as a part of the ecosystem should be further acknowledged and considered in the advices. It is always a challenge to balance different interests. 
  • Not everything has to be based on consensus, but trade-offs have to be clear and the decisions must be transparent.

Marcin Rucinski

Marcin Rucinski from the Polish Ministy of Agriculture and Fisheries is also Baltifish chair and Helcom FISH chair.

Key messages:

  • Not all issues can be tackled at the same time.
  • Science is in place.
  • Policy and decision system should be included in the next revision of the reform.
  • Baltfish is still young. Patience is needed to get the fishermen or other stakeholders who are the addresses of the policy on board. They should also own the implementation.
  • It is a step-by-step approach. The next step is the revision of the technical measures of fisheries and how to include all tools in other policies, not limited to CFP.

Jarosław Wałęsa

Jaroslaw is a Member of European Parliament. He talks about the Baltic Multiannual Plan.

Key messages:

  • It is not the perfect plan but the best available and based on science.
  • The new plan is providing some material to improve ecosystem based fisheries in the Baltic.  
  • Still it is a compromise and will be reviewed after three years after its implementation.

Eskild Kirkegaard

Eskild from ICES about science and implementation of EBFM.

Key messages:

  • EBFM is a continuing process but we are ready to start implementation already now.
  • It is up to management task to speed up the process. I
  • CES is independent of policy pressures and its role is to be on the forefront in science for the future, should not wait for requests.
  • Social and economic aspects are not yet considered in the ICES scientific advices.

Gustaf Almqvist

Marine ecologist & Advocacy and Analysis Officer


Henrik Hamrén

science journalist