A Short Review of Precautionary Reference Points and Some Proposals or Their Use in Data-Poor Situations

Table of Contents


John Caddy
FAO Fisheries Department

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome, 1998

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ISBN 92-5-104229-2

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© FAO 1998


The present document was prepared originally for a Workshop on Precaution Limit Reference Points for Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific, organized by the Secretariat to the Pacific Community and held in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, on 28 and 29 May 1998. It should be regarded as a follow-up and supplement to FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 347, Reference Points for Fisheries Management, by J.F Caddy and R. Mahon, and concentrates particularly on the use of reference points in the management of fisheries where the long-time series or age-structured data sources required to use reference points are not available.


FAO Fisheries Department
FAO Regional Fishery Officers
Directors of Fisheries
Regional and International Fisheries Organizations

Caddy, J.
A short review of precautionary reference points and some proposals for their use in data-poor situations.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 379. Rome, FAO. 1998. 30p.


The paper briefly summarizes the recent development and use of reference points for fisheries management and how they are currently being used to contribute to precautionary fisheries management. This implies the incorporation of reference points into 'Harvest Control Laws', which form the basis for management action but need to be reconciled through discussion and negotiation between managers and fishers and the fishing industry, since the 'risk' that a particular fishing strategy will be precautionary depends on the overall performance of the fishery as a system and not just on the precision of the reference point itself. Limit Reference Points are only one component of a precautionary management system; precision in formulating reference points as part of a fisheries control, law will be ineffective in the absence of either industry's agreement to act when the limit reference points are approached or exceeded or prompt and effective surveillance to detect infringements.

A short review of reference points of actual or potential value will mainly look at those that could be of particular use for developing countries' fisheries and shellfish resources, or oceanic resources such as tuna, where lack of data on age structure and recruitment makes application of some of the conventional approaches used in north-boreal shelf fisheries uncertain. One suggestion that will be made is to consider how multiple reference points might be used based on different criteria.

The North Atlantic area is taken as an example of an area where considerable progress has already been made in defining reference points, but emphasis within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has largely been on defining RPs dependent on the existence of time series of age-structured data, a data-rich situation unlikely to currently apply to many tuna stocks and tropical fisheries. Where data is scarce, precaution is even more necessary, but reference points may have to be partly empirical, and emphasis is placed on describing a number of options to be explored further through simulation and, later, practical trials. Attention is given to different ways in which they could be combined in control laws within a fisheries management system.

This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software and careful manual recorrection. Even if the quality of digitalisation is high, the FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.

Table of Contents


Some General Considerations

The Role of RPs and Harvest Laws in Management

Objectives Underlying Formulation of Management and Reference Points

A Brief Classification of LRPs and their Applicability in Information-limited Situations

Functioning of an LRP-based System

Specific Problems and Approaches for Tuna Fisheries

Reference Points from Size-and-age Data?

Diagnosis of Areas Where LRPs are Required

Multispecies RPs?

Spatial Information and Reference Points

Rotating Closures and Gauntlet Models



Annex: Alternative Closed-form Solution for FNOW