Defining a Safe Operating Space for inland recreational fisheries

Stephen R. Carpenter, William A. Brock, Gretchen J.A. Hansen, Jonathan F. Hansen, Joseph M. Hennessy, Daniel A. Isermann, Eric J. Pedersen, K. Martin Perales, Andrew L. Rypel, Greg G. Sass, Tyler D. Tunney, M. Jake Vander Zanden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The Safe Operating Space (SOS) of a recreational fishery is the multidimensional region defined by levels of harvest, angler effort, habitat, predation and other factors in which the fishery is sustainable into the future. SOS boundaries exhibit trade-offs such that decreases in harvest can compensate to some degree for losses of habitat, increases in predation and increasing value of fishing time to anglers. Conversely, high levels of harvest can be sustained if habitat is intact, predation is low, and value of fishing effort is moderate. The SOS approach recognizes limits in several dimensions: at overly high levels of harvest, habitat loss, predation, or value of fishing effort, the stock falls to a low equilibrium biomass. Recreational fisheries managers can influence harvest and perhaps predation, but they must cope with trends that are beyond their control such as changes in climate, loss of aquatic habitat or social factors that affect the value of fishing effort for anglers. The SOS illustrates opportunities to manage harvest or predation to maintain quality fisheries in the presence of trends in climate, social preferences or other factors that are not manageable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1150-1160
Number of pages11
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by U. S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center Grant G11AC20456 to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Grant G16AC00222 to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and the Hilldale Fund of UW-Madison. We thank the Wisconsin DNR staff who collected recreational fisheries data that inspired this article. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • habitat
  • predation
  • rational expectations
  • recreational fishery
  • resilience
  • sustainability


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