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A new framework for ICES advice

ICES develops ten guiding principles to support ecosystem-based management advice.
Published: 17 December 2020

​​​​Each year, ICES receives requests to provide advice on a growing range of issues, from marine environmental policies to the management of marine living resources including fisheries policy. As we lead and respond to calls to support ecosystem based management, our advice framework needs to evolve and integrate. The “General context of ICES advice" that has been the basis of ICES advice for many years was drawn up to address advice regarding the management of the exploitation of living marine resources – primarily fisheries. For the past four years, our Advisory Committee (ACOM), who are responsible for all ICES advice, has been developing a more appropriate framework that incorporates the ecosystem approach in all sectors.

Our recently published ICES Advisory Plan establishes the ecosystem approach as the key to how we  provide independent advice on the management of human activities in our seas and oceans – and the key to a sustainable future. It provides a vision for how our advice can remain resilient in the face of future challenges. Andrew Clayton, Project Director, Ending Overfishing in Northwestern Europe, The Pew Trusts comments that, “Establishing the ecosystem approach as the central tenet that governs ICES scientific advice processes is exactly what is needed to provide the right information to member countries and intergovernmental organizations, to enable them to manage human activities sustainably."

Now, in 2020, we are proud to present a new Guide to ICES advice which provides a robust framework for our advisory process. Embedded within this new guide are ten overarching principles, which will be applied to each and every request for advice we receive.

Kåre Nolde Nielsen, a researcher at the Norwegian College of Fishery Science and an observer to the advisory process has comments that, "ICES provides a progressively broad and complex portfolio of advisory products. On this background, it becomes increasingly important to understand how advice is requested, how ICES develops and quality controls its response, and how stakeholders and reviewers are accorded into the process. The new guide to ICES advisory framework not only provides an account of these processes, but also identifies the principles that underpins them. By putting principles on the table, ICES will stimulate reflection, and thereby help providers, requesters and other users of ICES advice to navigate in the complex, uncertain and value-laden context of marine resources and ecosystems".

Ten guiding principles

ICES advice will be framed around ten guiding principles, which should be applied to all recurrent advice, special requests, and overviews and to all advice subjects, including fishing opportunities, seabed impact, methods for analysing contaminants and renewable energy and many more.

“When you read the Guide, I hope that you will see why I think that the ten principles are such a big thing for us", states Mark Dickey-Collas, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee, as they allow us to move from a fisheries focused framework into a broader advice framework, one that encourages ecosystem-based management across all sectors."​

Integrated advice

​​​“Delivering integrated advice as part of the ecosystem approach is a cornerstone in advancing its implementation", states Marta Ballesteros, CETMAR, “The complexity of this, often referred to as a barrier, is harnessed through ICES new guiding principles. The advisory process facilitates exploring the space for decision-making (principle 3), mobilizing new knowledge and knowledge sources (principles 4 and 5) and enabling advisory tools that comprehensible embed the ecosystem approach without risking the integrity of the advice". While Ballesteros notes that, "a fully operational framework to provide integrated advice is still to be achieved", she states that, "the new principles combine the robustness and resilience to do so in light of changing policy and societal demands".

Maintaining integrity

For our advice to be respected, the scientists preparing it should have no vested interests and no agenda other than to deliver the best available science independent of political influence. We work hard to maintain this scientific integrity, to which ICES owes its distinguished position in the marine science world.  “Trust in our advice is key", adds Dickey-Collas, “These principles ensure ICES integrity in a changing policy landscape, and enables us to retain our legitimacy as an independent adviser. They state that we are publically committed to transparent advice, we are committed to peer-review, and we are committed to look at risks and management objectives".

​Through our advice, ICES strives to advance and share scientific understanding of marine ecosystems and the services they provide to meet conservation, management, and sustainability goals.

Current recipients of ICES advice include the European Commission's Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Directorate-General for Environment, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the OSPAR Commission (OSPAR) and the governments of Iceland and Norway.

All the latest ICES advice can be found online.


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A new framework for ICES advice

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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