International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Workshop to scope the ICES framework for ecosystem advice (WKECOFRAME)

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posted on 2022-12-12, 11:02 authored by ICESICES

The Workshop to scope the ICES framework for ecosystem advice (WKECOFRAME), chaired by Lisette Enserink (The Netherlands) and Carl O'Brien (UK) met in Copenhagen, Denmark, 9–11 May 2017 to prepare an overview of international policy objectives and regional competencies with respect to the marine environment and identify the role of ICES in the provision of advice. In addition, with the ambition of defining a framework for ecosystem advice, the workshop was tasked to i) assess the scope of past and current ICES advice, identifying the potential for future requests and any gaps in existing knowledge; ii) identify the principles to adopt when applying ICES knowledge to such requests even where there are no clear policy objectives; and iii) recognising the consultative process expected by some clients suggest options for dis-tinguishing between ICES advice and its technical services. Finally, WKECOFRAME was tasked with the identification of options to ensure ownership of the ecosystem advisory process by ACOM and the wider ICES network.

In deference to the three tasks identified above, WKECOFRAME recommends that ICES ecosystem advice be guided by five central principles:
(1) ensure high quality,
(2) assemble appropriate expertise,
(3) match client expectations to the deliverable,
(4) develop tools that are fit for purpose, and
(5) communicate and execute processes that enable the efficient and accurate delivery of product.
The themes embued in these principles should be immutable, even when policy objectives are not completely clear. ICES should endeavour to employ best management practices (BMPs) to deliver on these principles on all occasions wherein ecosystem ad-vice is sought.

ICES has: (a) experience applying scientific knowledge to ecosystem advice that is con-sidered in important management decisions, (b) commitment to data acquisition, ar-chiving and access, and (c) independence and objectivity to position it to be a paramount advisor on ecosystems. These organizational attributes should help to fa-cilitate ownership of the advisory process by ACOM and the wider ICES network. Notwithstanding, WKECOFRAME recommends that ICES can, and should, improve advisory services when it comes to ecosystems and the environment. First and fore-most, improvements can be realized by increasing the number of experts and the range of expertise engaged in advisory services. To do so, ICES should rethink membership of ACOM and build on alliances with other organizations that are engaged in ecosystem science, policy and management such as OSPAR, HELCOM and the European Commission/DG Environment.

In addition to expanding expertise, ICES would benefit by intensifying efforts to clarify client and stakeholder objectives, harmonize client expectations, and recognize the need for new approaches that account for the issues associated with ecosystem advice. Conceptually, this could yield advice generated from a set of plausible conceptual models or scenarios, rather than a single ‘best’ model or baseline as is often feasible for fisheries advice. Broadly speaking, ICES needs to develop new decision-support tools for ecosystem advice. Such tools may also require rethinking the way ICES engages stakeholders in the advisory process.
WKECOFRAME recognises that there are higher order objectives for the state of the marine environment that have been set by the nations/supranations surrounding the North Atlantic and which implicate all ICES member states in shared initiative. These higher order objectives, to some measure, are captured in international policy frameworks to which, in the provision of advice, ICES must seek cohesion while remaining deferential to lower order objectives, ie. more concrete or operational elaborations of the higher order objectives, in play with Regional Seas Conventions, fisheries commissions and national and supranational legislation. Thus, WKECOFRAME recommends that opportunities be explored during 2018 to compile the main lower order objectives for the marine environment for Regional Seas Conventions, fisheries commissions, and national and supranational legislation as an important part of the ecosystem advice framework.

Lastly, the advisory products provided by ICES can be classified into one of two categories:
• Advice which is adopted by ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM), and
• Services provided by the ACOM Leadership and/or the Secretariat under the oversight of ACOM.
WKECOFRAME recognizes that more internal dialogue within ICES is needed to ensure that other products are not being perceived externally as Advice/Technical Services; e.g. ICES expert group reports written under the auspices of ICES but may have neither been peer-reviewed nor endorsed by ACOM. Further, WKECOFRAME recommends that ACOM needs to take greater ownership of technical services, especially as some future fishing opportunity work will likely become technical services; i.e. made routine and automatic.

Finally, as a priority during its next consultations, ACOM is requested to:
a. discuss the current WKECOFRAME report, notably the guiding principles and best practices for providing ecosystem advice in Section 4 and how this should work in practice; and
b. consider and propose a way forward for improved ACOM involvement as described in Section 5.1.1:
• Option 1 - Establishment of a new Committee.
• Option 2 – Increase to two ACOM members per Member Country; one covering fisheries, the other covering non-fisheries issues.
• Option 3 – Status quo.


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM

Published under the auspices of the following ICES Expert Group or Strategic Initiative



ICES Expert Group Reports

Meeting details

9-11 May 2017; Copenhagen

Recommended citation

ICES. 2017. Workshop to scope the ICES framework for ecosystem advice (WKECO-FRAME), 9–11 May 2017, ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2017/ ACOM:44. 46 pp.

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