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Trade-offs between conservation and socio-economic objectives in managing a tropical marine ecosystem


  • Cheung, William W.L.
  • Sumaila, U. Rashid


Understanding the trade-off relationships between ecological, economic and social objectives is important in designing policies to manage or restore ecosystems. Using the northern South China Sea (NSCS) as a case study, we explore the trade-offs between conservation and socio-economic objectives in managing fisheries in tropical marine ecosystems. Using a numerical optimization routine and ecosystem modelling (Ecopath with Ecosim), the study shows that current management of the NSCS is sub-optimal both in terms of conservation and economic objectives. Therefore, improvement in both conservation status and economic benefits can be achieved by reducing fishing capacity. However, the implementation of conservation plans may be hindered by the reduced number of fisheries-related jobs and the lack of alternative livelihoods. Similar trade-offs are apparent in many tropical marine ecosystems. Thus, this paper supports claims from previous studies that solving the alternative livelihood problems appears to be a priority for improving management and conservation in these ecosystems. A buy-back scheme that is funded by fishers might be effective in reducing fishing capacity. However, public funds are required if management objectives focus strongly on conservation. This might be justified by the direct or indirect benefits to society that could be provided by well-conserved ecosystems. This study highlights the conflict between maximizing conservation and social objectives, although win-win solutions between conservation and economic objectives may be possible.

Suggested Citation

  • Cheung, William W.L. & Sumaila, U. Rashid, 2008. "Trade-offs between conservation and socio-economic objectives in managing a tropical marine ecosystem," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 193-210, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:66:y:2008:i:1:p:193-210

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sumaila, Ussif R. & Walters, Carl, 2005. "Intergenerational discounting: a new intuitive approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 135-142, January.
    2. Clark, Colin W. & Munro, Gordon R. & Sumaila, Ussif Rashid, 2005. "Subsidies, buybacks, and sustainable fisheries," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 47-58, July.
    3. Teh, Louise & Sumaila, U. Rashid, 2007. "Malthusian overfishing in Pulau Banggi?," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 451-457, July.
    4. Enriquez-Andrade, Roberto Ramon & Vaca-Rodriguez, Juan Guillermo, 2004. "Evaluating ecological tradeoffs in fisheries management: a study case for the yellowfin tuna fishery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 303-315, March.
    5. Costanza, Robert & d'Arge, Ralph & de Groot, Rudolf & Farber, Stephen & Grasso, Monica & Hannon, Bruce & Limburg, Karin & Naeem, Shahid & O'Neill, Robert V. & Paruelo, Jose, 1998. "The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 3-15, April.
    6. H. Scott Gordon, 1954. "The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 124-124.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Ying & Hu, Jianfeng & Pan, Haoran & Li, Shiyu & Failler, Pierre, 2016. "An integrated model for marine fishery management in the Pearl River Estuary: Linking socio-economic systems and ecosystems," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 135-147.
    2. Yee, Susan Harrell & Carriger, John F. & Bradley, Patricia & Fisher, William S. & Dyson, Brian, 2015. "Developing scientific information to support decisions for sustainable coral reef ecosystem services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 39-50.
    3. Ramírez, Alejandro & Ortiz, Marco & Steenbeek, Jeroen & Christensen, Villy, 2015. "Evaluation of the effects on rockfish and kelp artisanal fisheries of the proposed Mejillones Peninsula marine protected area (northern Chile, SE Pacific coast)," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 297(C), pages 141-153.
    4. repec:eee:ecomod:v:230:y:2012:i:c:p:34-43 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. U. Srinivasan & William Cheung & Reg Watson & U. Sumaila, 2010. "Food security implications of global marine catch losses due to overfishing," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 183-200, October.
    6. Bacalso, Regina Therese M. & Wolff, Matthias & Rosales, Rina Maria & Armada, Nygiel B., 2016. "Effort reallocation of illegal fishing operations: A profitable scenario for the municipal fisheries of Danajon Bank, Central Philippines," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 331(C), pages 5-16.
    7. Garmendia, E. & Prellezo, R. & Murillas, A. & Escapa, M. & Gallastegui, M., 2010. "Weak and strong sustainability assessment in fisheries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 96-106, November.
    8. A.A. Cisse & L. Doyen & F. Blanchard & J.C. Pereau, 2013. "Stochastic viability of the coastal fishery in French Guiana," Documents de Travail 2013-07, CEREGMIA, Université des Antilles et de la Guyane.

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