What is the social and economic value of fishing in the North Sea and how can we incorporate these values into marine science, management and policy-making?

Coastal waters such as the North Sea are becoming increasingly busy. Next to traditional human uses such as fishing and transportation are modern uses of marine space such as aquaculture, tourism and mineral exploitation. In recent years and in the future, other new uses such as wind farms and marine protected areas are demanding space. These two new uses confront managers with the difficult task of preserving some marine spaces while also managing the existing pallet of activities. This is all occurring in a dynamic context affected by important drivers such as climate change and the likely consequences of Brexit. In addition, management demands for activities at sea are also in flux (see the rise of multi-species management, the ecosystem approach to management in fisheries, and the EU’s marine environmental policy). With emerging and interacting uses and higher quality knowledge demands, managers face wicked problems for which they need to make prompt, high-stakes decisions under conditions of uncertainty.

In light of this complexity, it has become accepted that managing multi-use seas is not only about understanding the marine natural ecosystem but requires understanding of what are called marine social-ecological systems. Human use, human management and human valuation of the marine system is as much part of sustainable use of the seas as the ecological dimension. Thus questions such as how to govern marine spaces, how to steer behaviour in marine spaces, and what the social and cultural value of fishing is and how it can be taken into account by managers all require social science input. Despite this need, natural scientists have so far been the main contributors to marine policy. In cases where economic cost-benefit analyses are made, social information is rarely gathered in applied research for policy. In order to properly evaluate the required trade-offs, social and economic information should be included in the science on which management is based.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) identified this as a knowledge gap in their science for advice and has therefore started a process (known as the ‘strategic initiative on the human dimension’) to make the science they produce more interdisciplinary. Two working groups, WGSOCIAL and WGECON, have recently started within ICES.

We would like to use this MARE Policy Day to invite stakeholders from the Netherlands and social scientists visiting the MARE conference to discuss which knowledge is required for integrated marine social-ecological science and how can it be collected and fed into applied marine science.

The central question is: What is the social and economic value of fishing in the North Sea and how can we incorporate this into marine science and policy-making?

The results of the Policy Day can inform the future evolution of the Common Fisheries Policy and be used in current trajectories in Dutch policy-making (NorthSea 2030). It will also assist the two ICES working groups frame future work.


  • 9:15 – 10.00 Registration and coffee
  • 10:00 – 10.15 Welcome and opening
  • 10:15 – 11.15 Setting the stage: Dutch stakeholder perceptions on the social and economic value of fishing in the North Sea
  • 11:15 – 11.45 Coffee
  • 11:45 – 12.30 Participatory gathering of ideas
  • 12:30 – 13.30 Lunch
  • 13:30 – 14.00 Structured summary of the ideas gathered
  • 14:00 – 14.30 How do such suggestions feed into science?
  • 14:30 – 15.15 Examples from elsewhere
  • 15:15 – 15.45 Tea break
  • 15:45 – 17.00 Outlook to the future
  • 16:00 Drinks and snacks