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The challenge

Decreasing fish numbers

Overfishing has led to the dwindling of fish stocks across many parts of the world, and has highlighted the need for strong management practices.

Our response

The Atlantis ecosystem model

We've developed a model that simulates the marine environment and related human activities, allowing managers to 'test drive' different approaches to balancing resource use and conservation.

CSIRO's Atlantis model has been used for applications in Guam. ©  iStock

Incorporating oceanography, chemistry, biology, resource exploitation, economics and social responses, the Atlantis has been rated by the United Nations as the best ecosystem model in the world for exploring sustainable use of marine resources. Originally designed to look only at fishing, it has now grown to include all other uses or marine and coastal areas, such as mining, tourism, transport and energy generation.

The model simulates ecological processes such as consumption, migration, predation and mortality. It links this with models of human behaviour and decision making to provide a complete look at marine ecosystems and how they are influenced by climate and human activities.

A version of the model, Atlantis SE, was developed to provide advice on the management of Australia's Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, and provided the first sound basis to evaluate integrated solutions to complex fishery management problems.

Other regional versions are being used to support management strategy evaluation in more than 40 ecosystems worldwide.

The results

New hope for fisheries

Atlantis contributed to a groundbreaking study by an international team of 19 researchers that examined trends in fish numbers and catches and highlighted management approaches used to rebuild fish stocks.

The study found that steps taken to curb overfishing were having success in five of the ten large marine ecosystems examined, providing new hope for rebuilding troubled fisheries.

Using the Australian Atlantis models, CSIRO researchers have also demonstrated that taking an ecosystem oriented approach has positive outcomes for the environment, and for regional economies and the social wellbeing of local communities

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