Institute of

Sea Fisheries




Herwigstraße 31

27572 Bremerhaven

Telephone: +49 471 94460 101

Fax: +49 471 94460 199

 (c) Thünen-Institut

Sustainable exploitation of natural marine resources

We conduct ecological and economic research to provide the scientific basis for

  • maintaining healthy and productive fish stocks and ecosystems in the North Sea and North Atlantic,
  • ensuring sustainable aquatic food supply,
  • integrating multiple ocean uses into an ecosystem approach to ocean management.

The shallow continental shelf areas account for only 8 percent of total ocean area, but host the most productive marine ecosystems in the world. 99 percent of marine catch originate from these narrow shelf areas. Only in healthy ecosystems, fish stocks reach their full productivity, and the overarching management goal of maximum sustainable yield can be achieved. However, more and more users are competing for space and ecosystem services in these productive areas: offshore windparks, Natura 2000 marine protected areas and other demands next to fisheries call for an integrated approach to managing all human activities at sea.

We support policymakers in integrating fisheries into comprehensive ocean management. In order to achieve this goal, a paradigm shift in fisheries research was needed. A focus on commercially exploited species and the influence of fisheries on these stocks is not enough. We work system-oriented and have structured our Institute’s research units accordingly. Findings obtained in one research area constitute the basis for the next higher observation level:

  • Single- and multi species fish stock assessments and projections form the basis for studies on the structure and dynamics of the ecosystems, in which they live.
  • The next level encompasses economic considerations of services aquatic ecosystems provide. We analyse production systems and the behaviour of economic actors under different biological, economic and normative boundary conditions along the value chain from catch to plate.
  • The economic analyses are, in turn, part of integrated analyses of marine (spatial) use concepts. We address cumulative impacts of simultaneously occurring uses of the sea, including fisheries, nature conservation, wind farm construction, or aggregate extraction and shipping, with the aim to optimize multiple-use scenarios.

Neither protection nor the utilisation of living marine resources and marine ecosystems should be organised at national level. Therefore, fisheries research and management has already over decades been organized in international co-operation, and we have been drawing up management and fishing quota recommendations for entire fish stocks rather than stock components in national waters. A unique series of long-term data, collected transnationally using our three highly specialised research vessels, are the basis for this.

We use the technological progress in other marine science disciplines and adapt technology and innovative methods for fish stock monitoring. In combination with 3D oceanographic drift model output, these data will help us, in future, to analyse changes in the marine environment and its impact on fish stocks and ecosystems almost in real time.

Fields of Activity

Makrelen im Probenbehälter (©  Thünen-Institut/Birgit Suer)
Marine living resources
Quotas and other EU management measures (e.g., closed areas, closed seasons, gear specifications) regulate how much fish is allowed to be taken from a population and how fishery impacts marine ecosystems.
Fangzusammensetzung 2 m-Kurre (©  Thünen-Institut)
Marine ecosystems
How will our marine ecosystems look like in future? How will functions and ecosystem services be altered under climate change and simultaneous intensive human use?
 (©  Thünen-Institut)
Operational observation systems
The physical and chemical properties of the ocean control the distribution and population dynamics of fish and other marine organism to a large extent.
 (©  Thünen-Institut)
Marine spatial management
Fisheries, offshore renewables, marine conservation, shipping and science: More and more users are competing for the same space in coastal and offshore areas. How can we balance sustainable use of marine resources and the maintenance of ecosystem health?
 (©  Thünen-Institut/J. Ulleweit)
Economic analyses
The global demand for fish has been growing constantly for years. At the same time fisheries reach the limit of natural resource use.



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