Ecosystem Services, Recreational Fisheries and Sustainable Seafood

A fish that jumps in a rapids. Photo.
Photo: Lars Vallin

The Ecosystem Services, Recreational Fisheries and Sustainable Seafood research group concentrates on the interactions between humans and ecosystems in numerous ways, with focus on coastal areas. The main interest is on sustainability analysis of fisheries and aquaculture, management and governance of recreational fisheries, civil society’s involvement in coastal ecosystems’ restoration, and practical use of the ecosystem services concept. 

Sustainable Seafood

Seafood ready for serving. Photo.
Photo: foto: llee_wu "Seafood" (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food producing sector in the world, accounting for about half of all seafood consumed. Cultivation of fish and shellfish may however give rise to adverse environmental impacts such as the spread of chemicals, eutrophication and degradation of ecosystems. Increased awareness among consumers and retailers as well as pressure from environmental organizations have over the past decade contributed to an increased number of certification schemes and consumer guides for seafood.

Key research objectives for Sustainable Seafood include (a) measuring sustainability in aquaculture through various analytical tools and indicators such as LCA; (b) analysing criteria and regulations of certification systems for aquaculture in the context of environmental sustainability, and (c) examining Swedish consumers’ knowledge, attitudes and values ​​on eco-labeling for improved sustainability.

Management and governance of recreational fisheries

A person with a freshly caught fish in a net. Photo.
Photo: Lars Vallin

Recreational fishing provides significant societal values, and is important for nature-based economic development in rural areas. Unfortunately, fish stocks face numerous anthropogenic threats and resource extraction by recreational fisheries may add to these pressures, but appropriate fisheries management has great potential to improve maintenance and sustainable use of fish stocks. The development of future management of recreational fisheries, which secures the stocks and is accepted by anglers, needs to account for anglers’ knowledge and attitudes on reporting, restrictions on access, catch and gear, guidelines for fish handling when implementing catch-and-release, wild versus stocked fish, etc.

Research on Management and Governance of Recreational Fisheries aims to investigate the human dimension of recreational salmon and sea trout fisheries in Sweden and to provide management recommendations that will help to improve the governance of recreational fisheries and thus contribute to the maintenance of viable fish stocks and their habitats, and a long-term delivery of important ecosystem services from coastal areas and inland waters.

Civil society’s involvement in coastal ecosystem restoration

Photo: Lars Vallin

The current efforts of biodiversity conservation, including restoration, have to date not led to reversing the ongoing biodiversity decline, stressing the need for complementary approaches facilitating successful conservation. One way forward is to identify the ways in which to engage civil society in activities that lead to positive conservation outcomes. Within this research area, the focus in on wetland restoration conducted by the Swedish Anglers Association in co-operation with private landowners. The aim is to identify factors that enable or hinder engagement of the civil society in restoration projects.

Wetlands are habitats important for both facilitating proper functioning of ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity, and delivery of essential ecosystem services to society. Because of the multiple benefits they provide, they constitute an interesting arena for investigating the nature-society interactions in complex socio-ecological systems. The need to maintain and restore wetlands is well established by governmental agencies and environmental policies, although civil society is currently a main actor in Swedish wetland restoration. The Swedish Anglers Association, in cooperation with landowners, has restored coastal wetland in around 20 locations since 2010.

Practical use of the ecosystem services concept

Photo: Patrik Rönnbäck

Nature generates a variety of resources and services, which are essential for human welfare and societal development. The concept of ecosystem services classifies these resources and services into provisioning services (renewable natural resources such as food and forest products), regulating services (e.g. water purification and climate regulation), cultural services (e.g. recreation values) and supporting services (e.g. cycling of water and nutrients).

The concept of ecosystem services has recently been widely applied in policies at different governance levels. The key expectation is that investigation (i.e. identification, assessment, mapping and/or valuation) of ecosystem services will contribute to improved decisions concerning nature and environmental values. However, there is also a lot of critique towards the concept and numerous concerns about its practical application. Within this research area the focus is on both conceptual developments of the ecosystem services concept and the investigation of its implementation in practice.

Contact: Patrik Rönnbäck