Transparent, performance-based approaches to allocating fishing opportunities are required for signatories to the Aarhus Convention and the European Union's (EU) Member States via the Common Fisheries Policy. The lack of an operational framework to support this requirement means such a system is seldom explicitly used. Using the English commercial sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) fishery as a case study, operationalisation of this policy requirement is evaluated using a Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) framework. MCDA is a decision-making tool allowing users to explicitly evaluate complex, potentially conflicting, criteria, enabling wider costs and benefits to be considered. The sea bass fishery was selected as the dramatic stock decline since 2010 has meant difficult policy choices regarding the allocation of scarce fishing opportunities between different user groups. To inform the MCDA, the three main English sea bass fishing methods (nets, hooks, and trawls) are evaluated across thirteen social, economic, and environmental criteria to generate a performance score. Importance weightings for each criterion, developed from 50 surveys of fishers, industry representatives, managers, non-governmental organisations, and the wider public, are used to combine these performance scores generating an overall score for the MCDA. Results show that regardless of stakeholder group questioned, hooks achieve the highest MCDA performance, followed by nets, and then trawls. This suggests that taking a performance-based approach to the allocation of fishing opportunities in the English fishing fleet have a prioritisation by fishing type. MCDA could be used to promote transparency, objectivity and social, environmental and economic sustainability into European and UK fisheries.
This article was originally published in the Journal of Marine Policy here.