Ethical considerations and unanticipated consequences associated with ecological forecasting for marine resources
Forecasts of marine environmental and ecosystem conditions are now possible at a range of time scales, from nowcasts to forecasts over seasonal and longer time frames. Delivery of these products offers resource managers and users relevant insight into ecosystem patterns and future conditions to support decisions these stakeholders face associated with a range of objectives. The pace of progress in forecast development is so rapid that the scientific community may not be considering fully the impacts on stakeholders and their incentives. Delivery of information, particularly about future conditions and the uncertainties associated with it, involves a range of judgements, or “ethical” considerations, including treatment of forecast failure, inequity in stakeholder response options, and winners and losers in commercial markets. Here, we explore these often unanticipated considerations via a set of case studies spanning commercial fishing, recreational fishing, aquaculture, and conservation applications. We suggest that consideration of ethical issues by scientists and their research partners is needed to maintain scientific integrity and fairness to end users. Based on these case studies and our experience, we suggest a set of ten principles that might be considered by developers and users of ecological forecasts to avoid these ethical pitfalls. Overall, an interdisciplinary approach, and co-production with end users will provide insurance against many unanticipated consequences.