Institute of

Sea Fisheries
Sea Fisheries . Seas Fisheries

Strategies for a sustainable usage of the North Sea


New interdisciplinary project SeaUseTip targets potential tipping points in the socio-ecological system of the North Sea and develops preventive management measures

(© (Nicholas Doherty))

Small sea of great interest - the North Sea has always experiences many different and intensive ways of usage by man. However, increasing anthropogenic activities in connection with the advancing climate change put under growing pressure. This leads to fundamental and rapid changes in the ecosystems and particularly in the North Sea fish community. Once critical thresholds, so-called tipping points, have been reached and exceeded, this can have dramatic consequences for nature and society.

Which developments can lead to such tipping points in the North Sea and how vulnerable is the socio-ecological system (SES) with its ecological, economic and socio-cultural subsystems to them? What strategies can be used to implement sustainable ecosystem-based management?

Scientists from the Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries and their colleagues from the University of Hamburg and the Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht, want to find answers to these questions. In the SeaUseTip project, led by Dr. Vanessa Stelzenmüller, the partners are pooling fisheries-biological, ecological, economic and social-scientific competencies in a novel interdisciplinary research approach. They examine both the individual subsystems and their complex interactions in order to detect weaknesses and possible susceptibilities to tipping points.

With the help of extensive data sets, they take a look into the past and present of fish stocks, analyse the development of fishing activities and markets in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and deal with the peculiarities of different fisheries cultures. Furthermore, the data form the basis of various models with which the effects of different management scenarios can be simluated and assessed.

In close cooperation with stakeholders from fisheries, industry, politics, state authorities and nature conservation, the researchers want to transfer their findings into effective measures and practicable tools which make the SES more resistant to sudden system changes and minimize the risk of exceeding tipping points.

The three-year project is funded within the framework of the international and interdisciplinary funding programme "EcoBiological Tipping Points (BioTip)" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

For further information visit
SeaUseTip on Twitter: @SeaUseTip

Contact: Dr. Vanessa Stelzenmüller