Ecosystem Considerations in Fisheries Management

16th Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium
and 1998 joint meeting of the American Fisheries Society Western Division, Alaska Chapter, and North Pacific International Chapter

Anchorage, Alaska, USA
September 30–October 3, 1998

Symposium Background

The goal of this symposium is to gather worldwide expertise and discuss how to incorporate ecosystem considerations into practical fishery management advice, and to recommend a process for advancing fishery management beyond the single species model.

In the last 10 years, there has been a growing perception that it is not effective to base fisheries management policies solely on single-species considerations. Large decadal shifts in species composition, abundance, and productivity are common, and are not predictable from single-species models. Climate regime shifts and human activities (e.g., overfishing, pollution, habitat degradation) are implicated in these changes.

North American examples include (1) Georges Bank, where the bottomfish community, once dominated by commercially valuable species such as cod and haddock, shifted to lower-valued species such as skates and dogfish; and (2) Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, where declines of crabs and shrimps have given rise to increasing pollock and flatfish. Severe economic hardships are associated with such declines in commercial fisheries.

Beyond consumer preferences, society places high values on marine ecosystem components, such as marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles. Threatened or endangered species warrant special consideration. Population declines often lead to after-the-fact adjustments to fishing regulations without a good understanding of cause and effect. Is it therefore desirable to incorporate ecosystem considerations into fishery management advice?

It may be argued that objectives for optimal yields are best met by applying harvest rate specifications, while no useful objectives exist for incorporating ecosystem considerations in fishery management. It may also be argued that objectives for simultaneous optimal yields from all fisheries are simply impossible, and that fishery management objectives need to be restated with a more holistic view of ecosystem processes. Although well-established methods exist to apply stock assessments and biological reference points, further progress must to be made if ecosystem considerations are to result in tangible fishery management advice.

Ecosystem processes also include the effects of nutrient additions from fish carcasses which have been identified in estuaries and in anadromous lakes and streams. Consideration of these effects on long-term ecosystem productivity may affect the harvest management of these species.

Given what we know about natural and human-induced changes in ecosystems around the world, what advice can we give fishery managers? The conveners hope to address these and other topics:


The Alaska Chapter, North Pacific International Chapter, and Western Division of the American Fisheries Society will hold their 1998 annual meetings jointly with this Wakefield symposium. The theme for the entire meeting is Ecosystem Considerations in Fisheries Management.

All meeting sessions will be held in the same facility in Anchorage, Alaska, where guest rooms will be available at a special rate for meeting participants. Information on registration and costs for the symposium and accommodations will be forwarded with the next announcement in spring 1998.

A symposium proceedings including oral and poster presentations will be published soon after the symposium.

Symposium Organizing Committee

Symposium Sponsors

The Wakefield Series

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program has been sponsoring and coordinating the Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium series since 1982. These meetings are a forum for information exchange in biology, management, economics, and processing of various fish species and complexes as well as an opportunity for scientists from high latitude countries to meet informally and discuss their work.

Lowell Wakefield was the founder of the Alaska king crab industry. He recognized two major ingredients necessary for the king crab fishery to survive-ensuring that a quality product be made available to the consumer, and that a viable fishery can be maintained only through sound management practices based on the best scientific data available. Lowell Wakefield and Wakefield Seafoods played important roles in the development and implementation of quality control legislation, in the preparation of fishing regulations for Alaska waters, and in drafting international agreements for the high seas. Late in his career, Lowell Wakefield joined the faculty of the University of Alaska as an adjunct professor of fisheries where he influenced the early directions of the university's Sea Grant Program. This symposium series is named in honor of Lowell Wakefield and his many contributions to Alaska's fisheries.