Northeast Atlantic Mackerel quota & assessment debate

Kva gjev vi råd om? A Transdisciplinary analysis of the NEA mackerel advice system: Suggestions for a responsible way forward

Link to Prezi presentation:

Relevant Bio:

Dorothy J. Dankel, PhD is a permanent researcher in Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in Marine Science at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Bergen. Dorothy completed her PhD in 2009 (Dankert Skagen, Øyvind Ulltang and Mikko Heino as supervisors) after 3 years at IMR in the Pelagic Fish department. She also completed a post-doc in the ADMAR strategic institute program led by Olav Kjesbu. In parallel to her post-doc, she was a researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at UiB, supervised by Professor Roger Strand. Dorothy now leads a project on “Localizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja: #LoVeSeSDG” funded by NFR’s MILJØFORSK program in addition to being the RRI researcher and coordinator for Anna Wargelius’ (IMR) project VIRGIN SALMON, Anders Goksøyr’s (UiB) project “dCod1.0 Systems Toxicology of Cod” and the Horizon2020 project iFishIENCi: Intelligent Fish feeding through Integration of Enabling technologies and Circular principles. Dorothy is a board member of the Nordic Marine Think Tank and is on the Science Advisory Committee of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. Dorothy is the former Chair (2011-2014) and current member of the ICES Working Group on Maritime Systems and is active supporting the ICES Strategic Initiative on the Human Dimension to develop strategies to support the integration of social and economic science into ICES work.


The recent and dramatic revision of the Northeast Atlantic mackerel scientific advice from 318 403 t to 770 358 t (a 2.4x increase) in the span of 8 months has exposed many of the weaknesses of the current science advice procedure. I will put forward an analysis using the video of the IMR press conference of the September 2018 advice to initiate the following 4 theses:

  1. the SAM stock assessment model applied to the NEA mackerel stock obfuscates more than it illuminates, thereby causing mistrust, book-keeping errors, and non-credible advice for the coastal state fisheries stakeholders
  2. the assessment procedures for NEA mackerel do not have legitimate participatory process with other scientists or stakeholders, and would be difficult to make participatory due to the black box nature of the SAM model
  3. a remedy for the current “mackerel advice crisis” is not more data/more of the same, but a paradigm shift towards a full-scale Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) procedure as outlined by Smith et al. (1999), Plagányi et al. (2007) and Punt et al. (2014)
  4. A unique addition to a full-blown MSE process would be application of Quantitative Story-Telling, as outlined by Saltelli (Adjunct Professor at UiB) and Giampietro (2017), within a new MSE process

I will end with a historic twist: This is the 30th anniversary of UiB criticism towards stock models, initiated in an Ukens Orientering in 1989 by Jeppe Kolding. This debate was followed up in an Ukens Orientering invited debate among Kolding and Dankert Skagen in 1999. So I am honored to follow this tradition in 2019, but what are we learning along the way? I think we lack an integrated UiB/IMR scientific culture where we can deeply reflect about the science-policy interface and the quality and purposefulness of our models for quota advice. The credibility, legitimacy and saliency of IMR and ICES stock assessments are at stake.


Smith et al. (1999)

Plagányi et al. (2007)

Punt et al (2014)

Saltelli & Giampietro (2017)

Dankel et al. (2011) “Advice under uncertainty in the marine system”

Dankel et al. (2015) “What hat are you wearing?”

Dankel et al. (2015) “Communicating uncertainty in quota advice: a case for confidence interval harvest control rules (CI-HCRs) for fisheries”

Dankel (2016) “Defining a responsible path forward for simulation-based methods for sustainable fisheries”

The debate (so far!) in Fiskeribladet (chronologically, summer 2019):