Main research question/goal
What is the desired structure of the Belgian fishing fleet within the ecological constraints imposed to the fisheries industry? Which policy measures can be taken to evolve from the current situation towards this sustainable fleet model in order to guarantee the survival of the Flemish fisheries industry? These are the principal research questions within this PhD study. New in this research is that the socio-economic knowledge and fisheries technical expertiseat ILVO are combined for this study. The final goal is to support the transition to a sustainable Flemish fisheries industry with clear quantitative information about the socio-economic impact of policy measures.Research approach
The effects of policy decisions in the short and long term are quantified using a model in which the characteristics of the fisheries are embedded. While developing the model, attention is paid to two points: 1) the complex strategic behavior of vessel owners and fishermen has to be embedded in the model as well as possible operational choices, meaning the daily choices of fishing grounds, target species, fishing gear, harbors, etc. made. These choices interact strongly with the ecosystem, policy, market and other fleets. 2) the involvement of the different stakeholders by actively engaging them through a participatory process during modeling. The technique in which these points can be embedded in a model is "agent-based modeling", an innovative modeling technique that allows to embed the complex structure of a fisheries system in a computational model based on (simple) behavioral rules of the different actors.Relevance/Valorisation
Seventy percent of global fish stocks are overfished, leading to increasing pressure on marine ecosystems. This is also the case for most fish species exploited by the Belgian fleet in different European seas. Therefore a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was established within the European Union, which presents major challenges for the Belgian fisheries. In addition to the increased pressure of the environmental constraints set out in the CFP, changing socio-economic conditions also increase the pressure on the Belgian fishing industry. The combination of low fish prices due to the import of cheap aquaculture products, together with high fuel prices have reduced profit margins. In addition, Belgian fisheries are also struggling with an image problem, resulting in fewer new fishermen wanting to join the fleet. A sustainable future for the Belgian fisheries can only be guaranteed if the current fleet is transformed by some structural changes. With the knowledge gained in this research, this transition is supported to the maximum extent possible.