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QUEST and ICES Partner to Deliver Training on Management Strategy Evaluation

December 01, 2017

The Applications of Quantitative Methods in Fishery Management workshop took place on September 22, 2017, as a part of the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Annual Science conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.


By:  Kelly Vasbinder (University of South Florida)

Six QUEST faculty and their graduate students led the workshop which focused on Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE), a technique used to compare the performance of management strategies under multiple management objectives.   The course offered over 40 workshop participants from around the world the opportunity to gain a better understanding of MSEs, the practical knowledge to carry one out, and information on the wide range of possible MSE applications.

Faculty Contributions

Dr. Gavin Fay of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth kicked off the workshop with an introduction to MSE's to orient participants to the concept, explain where they fit in the framework of current management tools, and break down the steps needed to complete one. Next, Dr. Trevor Branch of the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at University of Washington shared the story of how MSE's are being used in the management of the billion dollar Southern Bluefin Tuna industry. His story focused on the human side of the equation: how can you get competing stakeholders to communicate effectively to reach a management decision? He proposed MSE as a tool that can be used to bring competing interest groups onto common ground.  Next, Dr. Erik Franklin from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at University of Hawaii at Manoa shifted the dialogue from large scale commercial fisheries to small-scale, data-limited reef fisheries in Hawaii.  His segment focused on demonstrating how MSE’s could be used in spatial management.  Dr. Brice Semmens from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego tackled a rarer use for MSEs.  Instead of comparing management scenarios, he used MSEs to compare the effects of different field sampling procedures for fisheries scientists, showing that MSEs are useful during the data-collection steps of fisheries science as well as the management steps.  Dr. Cameron Ainsworth from the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida reviewed several MSE's that have been used for ecosystem-scale studies.  He gave a background on harvest control rules, and then included case studies on MSEs using Atlantis and other ecosystem models from a wide range of regions and fisheries.  Last but not least, Dr. Chris Anderson from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at University of Washington shared the narrative of the Bristol Bay Salmon fishery and spoke on the importance of including economic considerations into management by using MSEs to evaluate the economic and biological impact of different management goals.

Student Contributions

Each faculty member brought a student to help with the practical section of the workshop.  Zack Oyafuso is from Univeristy of Hawaii and is working on a thesis entitled “Evaluating Effectiveness of Marine Reserves via Multiple Criteria Decision Making and Management Strategy Evaluation.” Brian Stock from Scripps Institution of Oceanography develops statistical methods to improve our understanding and management of fisheries.  Some examples include Bayesian mixing models for estimating animal diets (MixSIAR), spatiotemporal models for predicting fisheries bycatch risk, and length-based stock assessment for determining population status.  Melissa Krigbaum, from the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at University of Washington is working on “Fisher Flexibility and Gear Switching Provisions in Mixed fisheries: Evaluating Profitability of U.S. West Coast Sablefish” for her thesis.  Amanda Hart from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is working on an MSE to test a proposed Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management strategy for Georges Bank in the Northeast U.S. She imposed a ceiling on total system removals in conjunction with indicator-based harvest control rules to evaluate combinations of management actions which may be effective for managing multiple species at once in an ecosystem context. Caitlin Allen Akselrud is a PhD student from University of Washington working on a thesis called “Lowering the Risk of Overfishing While Increasing Profits for California’s Most Valuable Fishery, California Market Squid.”  Kelly Vasbinder is from the College of Marine Science at University of South Florida and her thesis is titled “Ecosystem Modeling and Larval Dispersal.”  In addition to a great learning opportunity, the workshop was also a great networking opportunity for the participants to meet students, faculty, and staff from other universities, agencies, and institutes across the globe.

Bringing It All Together

Dr. Fay facilitated the last segment of the day which was a hands-on activity for participants to work through code for MSEs using R and R-Studio software.  This gave participants the chance to apply what they’d been learning, and the skills to take an MSE past the conceptualized phase into a tool they could use.  The QUEST students helped participants with any software or coding problems that they encountered during the lab session.  In addition to constructing an MSE, participants also learned how to produce several types of figures that are typically used in presenting MSE results. 

The workshop had a strong social media presence, with tweets sent out by facilitators racking up almost 45,000 cumulative views.  Ultimately, participants walked away with a new tool in their belt and knowledge of the many creative ways in which MSEs have been used by QUEST faculty and the fisheries science community.

For more information on the workshop facilitators, please visit their faculty and lab web pages:


Last updated by Office of Science and Technology on August 10, 2022