Integrating fisheries management into sustainable development planning
Scientific understanding of coupled social-ecological systems has grown considerably in recent years, especially for fisheries and ocean management. However, few studies test the utility of approaches that capture multiple interactions between people and ecosystems within a real-world planning process. We developed a set of quantitative models that estimate catch and revenue from the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery as a function of coastal habitat extent and quality. We applied the models iteratively, with input from stakeholders, to assess fisheries outcomes of alternative scenarios for integrated coastal zone management in Belize and sustainable development planning in The Bahamas. We found that integrated management reduces risk to nursery habitats from multiple coastal and marine activities and increases lobster catch and revenue by large margins. In Belize, siting activities such as marine transportation and tourism development to explicitly reduce risk to nursery and adult habitats enhanced returns from the lobster fishery. In The Bahamas, strategic investments in economic development that focused on updating existing infrastructure, such as roads, rather than expanding the footprint of development, increased the catch of lobster by approximately half again as much relative to a business as usual scenario. Our findings show how models that link spatial information about coastal habitats and the dynamics of a key fishery can inform expected change in catch and revenue as a result of coastal management. In addition to strengthening stakeholder understanding of social-ecological relationships and highlighting national-scale outcomes of regional development decisions, modeled results allowed us to transparently and effectively improve coastal plans to achieve the goals of the citizens and governments of Belize and The Bahamas. These cases illustrate how models that account for relationships between development, nursery habitats, and fishing catch and revenue can elevate the importance of fisheries management in national development decisions.