Perspectives on adaptive policy design in fisheries management

  • Carl J. Walters
Part of the Monographiae Biologicae book series (MOBI, volume 67)


Fisheries management is necessarily an adaptive process, where decision makers can obtain some guidance from basic biological research and population dynamics theory, but must ultimately rely on direct management experience to test the validity of that guidance. The adaptive or learning process can be either “passive” or “active”. A basic issue for decision makers is whether to treat scientific advice as correct until it proves untenable in practice (a “passively adaptive” or “evolutionary” strategy), or instead to deliberately experiment with policy choices so as to reveal the better one more quickly (an “actively adaptive” or “probing” strategy). Passive strategies may fail to reveal opportunities for improved management in several common situations, including (1) harvest policies for stocks that may have been severely depleted before much population data were gathered; (2) harvest policies for stocks that show “cyclic” behavior; (3) resource enhancement programs; and (4) management policies for multispecies “assemblage” fisheries. In these situations it is argued that basic research and theory cannot in principle provide the decision-maker with confidence about correct choices in advance, and conservative (“safe”, risk averse) decisions would not be informative; the decision maker must either accept continuing uncertainty, or conduct a risky management experiment.


Fishery Management Sockeye Salmon Stock Size Dungeness Crab Pacific Halibut 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl J. Walters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal Resource EcologyUniversity of BritishColumbiaCanada

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