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Future Declines of the Binational Laurentian Great Lakes Fisheries: the Importance of Environmental and Cultural Change

Rothlisberge, John D.
Lodge, David M.
Cooke, Roger M.
Finnoff, David C.
It is increasingly clear that future long-term environmental challenges (e.g. climate change) are being driven by economic and cultural choices, as well as by physical and biological mechanisms. We looked at the extent to which these apply to potential future changes in fisheries in the Laurentian Great Lakes. These fisheries rank among the most valuable freshwater fisheries in the world, but have declined markedly in recent decades. To investigate how these fisheries might develop in the future, we elicited projections from experts in fisheries and related fields. Experts provided assessments on variables relating to US and Canadian commercial (pounds landed) and sport (participation and expenditures) fisheries for the years 2006 and 2025. We measured each expert's ability to quantify their uncertainty, producing performance-weighted combinations of expert estimates. All experts expected commercial fisheries to decline from 2006 to 2025, with greater declines in the US (25%) than in Canada (9%). Expectations for sport fishing differed more between lakes and less between countries, with median expected declines ranging from 1% to 13%. Experts attributed expected declines primarily to changes in economic market demands and shifts in societal interests. Increased attention to social and economic trends could aid Laurentian Great Lakes fishery policy and management.
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