Tim Essington, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington
Box 355020
City, State, Zip
Seattle, WA 98195
Award Year


Project Details

Measuring trade-offs in ecosystem services to support an ecosystem approach to fisheries management

The ecosystem approach to fisheries management has been widely promoted as a means to foster more sustainable management of marine resources by protecting vital and valued ecosystem functions. A central tenet of this approach is that fisheries decisions can be improved through a more holistic view that considers broader ecosystem impacts of fishing, and thereby directly considers trade-offs among conflicting demands for valued services that ecosystems provide. A growing management and conservation issue directly concerns these trade-offs—the rapid growth in fisheries targeting small, schooling ocean fish, or forage fish, and squids. Forage fish fisheries now comprise nearly 30 percent of all landings globally, and regionally squid account for as much as 40 percent of all fishery landings. These species play foundational roles in food webs as a primary means of energy transfer from small plankton, which these species consume, to larger species of fish, marine birds and mammals. Thus, they have value both as commodities to be caught and as providers of essential ecosystem services. Achieving the promise of ecosystem-based management is contingent on developing methods that can measure, identify and resolve these trade-offs.

Tim Essington's Pew Fellowship project will advance methods for valuing forage fish in marine ecosystems by developing tools to measure trade-offs between the essential ecosystem services they supply and their commercial value as commodities to be caught. In collaboration with an economist, Essington will consider both economic and biological data and models for forage fish and squids, which play a similar ecological role as forage fish. Essington will then apply the tools he develops to real fishery ecosystems. His project will provide a comprehensive empirical demonstration of the ecological and economic impacts of forage fish and squid fisheries. It will also provide new quantitative methods that may be adopted by managers for identifying, measuring and resolving ecological trade-offs in fisheries.


Tim Essington in an associate professor at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences in the U.S. Essington's research and teaching aims to better understand human impacts on marine food webs and to identify policy instruments that are most effective at minimizing them. He works in diverse ecosystems, ranging from estuaries to coastal and open oceans, and uses a wide range of quantitative tools to evaluate how ecological systems respond to fishing and other disturbances. He also serves as a principal scientist with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington where he leads work that seeks to better understand the consequences of climate change on regional fishery ecosystems.

Essington is a member of several advisory and editorial boards. Currently he co-chairs the Scientific Steering Committee for the joint U.S. National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) research program "Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization." He also has been on the Science Advisory Board for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. He currently serves on the NOAA Science Advisory Board Ecosystem Science and Management Working Group. He is actively engaged in fostering ecosystem-based management at a regional level, presently co-authoring a comprehensive assessment of the biophysical status of the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Essington received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Michigan in 1991, a Master of Science degree in fisheries and wildlife conservation from the University of Minnesota in 1995, and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999. He served on the faculty of Stony Brook University for two years before joining the faculty of the University of Washington in 2003.



B.S. Biology, 1991, University of Michigan
M.Sc. Fish and Wildlife Conservation, 1995, University of Minnesota
Ph.D. Zoology, 1999, University of Wisconsin-Madison


2007–Present: Associate Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington
2007–Present: Wakefield Endowed Chair in Fisheries
2007–Present: Principal Scientist, University of Washington Climate Impacts Group
2007–Present: Faculty member: Center for Quantitative Science
2007–Present: Faculty member: Program in Marine Biology
2003–2007: Assistant Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington
2002–2003: Assistant Professor, Marine Sciences Research Center, Stony Brook University


2009–Present: Member and co-Chair, Scientific Steering Committee, Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization (CAMEO)
2009–Present: Science Advisory Board: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
2009–Present: Steering Committee: University of Washington Conservation of Living Systems graduate program.
2006–Present: Assigning Editor, Ecological Applications
2010: Lead Author, 2010 Puget Sound Science Update "Biophysical status of Puget Sound" (with Dr. Terrie Klinger)
2009: Guest Editor: Fish and Fisheries Special Volume: Implementing Ecosystem-Based Management 
2008–2009: Associate Editor: Marine and Coastal Fisheries
2003–2006: Subject-Matter Editor, Ecological Applications
Member, Policy Group, European Commission's "Forage Fish Interactions" program


  • Walters, C.J. and Essington, T.E. in press. Recovery of bioenergetics parameters from information on growth: overview of an approach based on statistical analysis of tagging and size-at-age data. Open Fish Journal.
  • Hunsicker, M.E., Essington, T.E., Watson, RL, Sumaila, U.R. in press. The contribution of cephalopods to global marine fisheries: can we have our squid and eat them too? Fish and Fisheries.
  • Essington, T. E. 2010. Ecological indicators display reduced variation in North American catch share fisheries. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 107:754-759.
  • Essington, T. E. 2010. Trophic cascades in opean ocean ecosystems.in J. W. Terborgh and J. A. Estes, editors. The science of trophic cascades. Island Press.p 91-105.
  • Beaudreau, A. H., and T. E. Essington. 2009. Development of a new field-based approach for estimating consumption rates of fishes and comparison with a bioenergetics model for lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 66:565-578.
  • Courtenay, W. R., B. B. Collette, T. E. Essington, R. Hilborn, J. W. Orr, D. Pauly, J. E. Randall, and W. F. Smith-Vaniz. 2009. Risks of Introductions of Marine Fishes: Reply to Briggs. Fisheries 34:181-186.
  • Ruckelshaus, M., T. E. Essington, and P. Levin. 2009. Puget Sound, Washington, USA. Pages 201-226 in K. McLeod and H. Leslie, editors. Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans. Island Press, Washington D.C.
  • Watson, J. T., T. E. Essington, C. E. Lennert-Cody, and M. A. Hall. 2009. Trade-Offs in the Design of Fishery Closures: Management of Silky Shark Bycatch in the Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Fishery. Conservation Biology 23:626-635.
  • Winder, M., D. E. Schindler, T. E. Essington, and A. H. Litt. 2009. Disrupted seasonal clockwork in the population dynamics of a freshwater copepod by climate warming. Limnology and Oceanography 54:2493-2505.
  • de Mutsert, K., J. H. Cowan, T. E. Essington, and R. Hilborn. 2008. Reanalyses of Gulf of Mexico fisheries data: Landings can be misleading in assessments of fisheries and fisheries ecosystems. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 105:2740-2744. Nominee: Timothy Essington CV2
  • Hunsicker, M. E., and T. E. Essington. 2008. Evaluating the potential for trophodynamic control of fish by the longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65:2524-2535.
  • Watters, G. M., R. J. Olson, J. C. Field, and T. E. Essington. 2008. Range expansion of the Humboldt squid was not caused by tuna fishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:E5.