The provision of food for humans is the main driver for the long-standing fisheries sector and the fast-growing aquaculture sector. The ultimate aim is to provide safe and nutritious food sources to humans, in a way that is sustainable and does not damage the marine environment or harm ecosystems. However, other policy drivers such as economy and job provision also play a role, with the EU Blue Economy Report 2020 estimating that the “contribution of Marine living resources to the EU Blue Economy in 2018 was 11.5% of the jobs, 9.6% of the Gross Added Value and 9% of the profits”. The pressure to sustainably feed ever-growing populations in a sustainable manner and maintain the economically important sectors of fisheries and aquaculture will continue to grow, and the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture still need to be fully understood. As scientists, governments and industry embrace the shift to digitization, ecosystem modelling and big data approaches will be indispensable tools to bring the human dimension into fisheries and aquaculture management in a more holistic way.
Ecosystem models enable managers to understand historic ecosystem changes and to predict the response of ecosystems to future scenarios, such as changes in resource extraction, climate change, and/or a combination of these. As with climate predictions, ensembles of marine ecosystem models are crucial for robust predictions and are included as part of the toolbox used to support fisheries management, policies and governance. However, these models need to include economic and social dynamics for more comprehensive assessments and understanding.
In contrast to ecosystem modelling, which is based on a theoretical understanding of the processes taking place in the ecosystem, big data are being used in a less deterministic way to understand the world. Big data have compelled a paradigm-shift in the way we face major societal challenges from climate change to public health, and can also revolutionize our understanding of the ocean and human impacts. Big data offer innovative means to study and manage the fisehries and aquaculture sectors for the benefit of humans, economy and environment, with some applications already being realized.
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