PhD defence Thomas Willems
An ecosystem approach to fisheries management: the atlantic seabob schrimp (Xhiphopenaeus kroyer) in Suriname:
The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) is widely regarded as the best way to manage our living marine resources. While traditional fisheries management focuses on the populations of the target species, an EAF recognizes the complexity of ecosystems in which fisheries operate. Crucial aspects of an EAF are therefore (1) trophic relations between target species, their prey and predators, (2) indirect interactions between fleets - through trophic links and bycatch - and (3) the impact of fishing on marine habitats and species communities. Ignoring these elements in fisheries management lies at the core of different environmental and socio-economic problems, particularly in tropical shrimp fisheries. Triggered by a negative public perception and increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, the fishery for seabob shrimp in Suriname launched a sustainability initiative, resulting in certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This eco-label, however, was not an endpoint, but formed the basis for further improvements and was the direct motivation for this doctoral study.In cooperation with the local fisheries administration, the fishing industry, NGOs and the local university, research was conducted on the coastal ecosystem in Suriname, until recently virtually a blind spot for marine biologists. First, we investigated the spatio-temporal distribution of fish and invertebrates in the coastal waters. A second important element was the characterization of the role of seabob shrimp in the marine food web. Thirdly, this study focused on assessing the impact of seabob fisheries on the coastal ecosystem, by examining the composition of commercial catches. The scientific results were translated into recommendations to further support an ecosystem approach to the management of the Suriname seabob fishery. This thesis shows that fisheries can be sustainably managed, even those targeting tropical shrimp. Eco-labelling, participatory management and research can play a crucial role in this process.