What is the value of seafood?

Last year, Dr. Mimi E. Lam started a 2-year Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship at the University of Bergen (UiB), Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT). Her research project, ‘Enhancing Seafood Ethics and Sustainability (eSEAS): A Values and Ecosystem-based Management Approach’ “aims to explore new ways of securing seafood sustainability by embedding ethics and values in the management framework.” The project is premised on the problem that, despite increasing fisheries and oceans science, it is not always ‘taken up’ and marine resources continue to be harvested unsustainably and unethically. This, Mimi argues, is because marine management frameworks fail to properly account for the contested values at play: “If we can put values front and centre when developing decision-support tools within marine science and management frameworks, this will create policy decisions that ‘stick’”. eSEAS focuses on herring stocks and farmed salmon in Norway, and highlights the different social and natural values that make these species so important to the country, such as economic, ecological and cultural values.

From 22-24 May 2018, Mimi hosted an international workshop at the SVT to discuss The Ethics of Quantification: Modelling the Norwegian Spring-spawning Herring Fishery. Participants appraised the quality of three different modelling approaches currently being used to understand Norwegian herring dynamics and migration patterns and to provide scientific advice for fishery management. Workshop discussions focused on responsible quantification, model sensitivity analysis, knowledge quality assessment, fitness-for-function, and the incorporation of values in scientific advice for policy. The workshop assembled 11 participants from 3 specialities: (i) modellers from the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Norway and the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, (ii) post-normal science scholars studying the science-policy interface (SVT), and (iii) herring experts specializing in scientific advice for policy (UiB, UBC, IMR, and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea).

There were two main outcomes of the ethics workshop. First, an appreciation for the various strengths and weaknesses of the different modelling approaches for Norwegian herring, and hence their differing fitnesses for function. This led to an incipient collaboration to perform ‘complementary and comparative modelling’ to give a more comprehensive understanding of the herring dynamics and fishery. For example, using two different models to explore the same fishery scenarios in parallel, and then checking the consistency between them; something that is rarely done. Second, an appreciation for how models constrain ‘scenarios’ that are used to make decisions at the science-policy interface, as in fisheries management. This widened to a discussion of quality appraisal of scenarios and their different functions – from illustrating to advising. How to design fishery scenarios as deliberative and ethical decision-support tools fit for function will be explored in a paper at the PNS 4 symposium in Barcelona, November 2018.

For more information on the ethics workshop or eSEAS, contact Dr Mimi E. Lam: 


The eSEAS workshop group from May 2018: Mimi Lam, front row.