The sustainable governance and management of small-scale fisheries (SSF) is challenging, largely due to their dynamic and complex nature. Agent-based modeling (ABM) is a computational modeling approach that can account for the dynamism and complexity in SSF by modeling entities as individual agents with different characteristics and behavior, and simulate how their interactions can give rise to emergent phenomena, such as over-fishing and social inequalities.
The structurally realistic design of agent-based models allow stakeholders, experts, and scientists across disciplines and sectors to reconcile different knowledge bases, assumptions, and goals. ABMs can also be designed using any combination of theory, quantitative data, or qualitative data. In this publication we elaborate on the untapped potential of ABM to tackle governance and management challenges in SSF, discuss the limitations of ABM, and review its application in published SSF models.
Our review shows that, although few models exist to date, ABM has been used for diverse purposes, including as a research tool for understanding cooperation and over-harvesting, and as a decision-support tool, or participatory tool, in case-specific fisheries. Even though the development of ABMs is often time- and resource intensive, it is the only dynamic modeling approach that can represent entities of different types, their heterogeneity, actions, and interactions, thus doing justice to the complex and dynamic nature of SSF which, if ignored can lead to unintended policy outcomes and less sustainable SSF.
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