List of Figures:

Figure 1: Pressure-State-Response framework

Figure 2: Frameworks of Indicator Analysis

List of Tables:

Table 1. Examples of PSR indicators according to indicator framework dimensions adopted by the Commission on Sustainable Development (from FAO 2000)

Table 2: Methodology Sheet for Indicators

"Indicators of sustainable development need to be developed to provide solid bases for decision-making at all levels and to contribute to the self-regulating sustainability of integrated environment and development systems."

Chapter 40.4 of Agenda 21, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992

Indicators are signposts that offer decision-makers (and their clients) information that can provide - for a given attribute of the fishery system - the following:

_ the current state and trends;
_ the pressure points;
_ the impacts or effects of states, trends and interventions;
_ feedback on the required adjustments to interventions;
_ the milestones achieved or missed.

From the time when UNCED declared the above statement and the UN formed the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), there has been much progress on the development of ISD through:

_ building consensus on the need for international standards for indicators (through the second and third sessions of the CSD and subsequent CSD programmes) (Federal Planning Bureau of Belgium 1997);
_ extending the general theory of indicators to the issues of sustainable development, which have been hitherto focussed mainly on economic/financial indicators such as GDP, etc. (Bossel 1999, Meadows 1998);
_ devising and establishing the practice of indicator development through frameworks and methodologies (FAO 1999b, Hardi and Zdan 1997, Moldan et al 1997); and
_ developing training materials for indicator selection, formulation and analysis. (See for example Pinter et al 2000, which focuses primarily on environmental assessment.)

A system of indicators or references that cover the complexity and scale of a fisheries system needs to be developed in order to demonstrate that the conduct of the work of decision-makers has been, is currently, or will be in accordance with sustainable development principles. The SDRS for a RFB would typically be undertaken by a working group (or groups) with the following tasks:

1. Specify the scope of the SDRS: this is generally already implicit in the mandate of the RFB, i.e. species, boundaries, nature and influence of coastal geography, participants (members and fishing capacity) and special issues (State's status, endangered species, etc).

2. Framework for indicator development: Choose the framework appropriate to the scale of indicator requirements, i.e. how much detail is required? For example, is it important to know what driving forces are on foreign fleets to maintain a regional presence, e.g. an indicator of the importance of the catch to the distant -water fishing nation's markets, or is this unimportant? Decide on the process approach and the dimensions (usually environment (resource and ecosystem), social, economic and governance, as adopted by the CSD).

3. Specify criteria, objectives, potential indicators and reference points: Establish the most important criteria that are to be managed for each dimension, e.g. environment - target species abundance; social - participation; economic - total catch; governance - property right. Establish the objectives for each and possible range of indicators that best reflect targets and current status.

4. Choose the set of indicators and reference points: test, including simulation where possible, and choose the set of indicators and reference points that:

1) are appropriate to the task,

2) there is capacity to measure and

3) are readily understandable to decision makers, where appropriate.

5. Specify the methods of aggregation and visualisation: select a method for presentation of an indicator that is understandable, say by scaling, scoring or graphic methods.

An ISD framework is a convenient way to organise indicators in relation to the four dimensions of sustainable development. Organising indicators according to a framework allows a clearer understanding of the linkages between them, and the information required for their measurement. Indeed, frameworks offer a means to enable practical indicator selection where none exist, or adaptation of existing ones where they prove inadequate for the task.

There are many frameworks available and the choice of framework can reflect the scope of the system being assessed and the policy priorities that the indicators are designed to inform. The most common process framework is the Pressure-State-Response framework. This is illustrated in detail in Figure 1, and variants are outlined in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Pressure-State-Response framework

(Australia Department of Environment Sports and Territories, 1994, reported in Pinter 2000)

Undisplayed Graphic

The Commission on Sustainable Development's indicator framework adopts a structural approach to all development domains by placing indicators in the four dimensions - environmental (ecosystem/resource), social, economic and institutional/ governance dimensions. These frameworks provide a first step in identifying ISDs. Combining the dimensions with the processes conveniently subdivides and classifies the task, as in table 1 below in which a few indicators are specified as examples.
Undisplayed GraphicUndisplayed GraphicUndisplayed GraphicFigure 2: Frameworks of Indicator Analysis - what level of detail is required?

Table 1. Examples of PSR indicators according to indicator framework dimensions adopted by the Commission on Sustainable Development (from FAO 2000)





Environment (Ecosystem/

· Total catch
· Total area fished
· Catch/sustainable yield
· %resources > target
· Total effluent discharge

· Biomass / target B
· Fishing mortality / target F
· Exploitation rate / target E
· %target resource > target
· %non-target resource > target
· Biodiversity index
· Community structure
· Trophic structure
· Area of critical habitat

· TAC/sustainable yield
· % depleted stocks rebuilding
· Reduction in land-based pollution
· User rights established
· User fees established


· Fishing effort
· Number of vessels
· Growth rate of number of fishers
· Unemployment rate
· Immigration rate
· Social unrest

· Number of fishers
· Demography
· Number of associations
· % below poverty line
· Income and asset distribution

· Unemployment assistance
· Support to associations
· Resources allocation decision


· Sector unemployment
· Subsidies
· Excess fishing capacity
· Resource rent potential

· Profitability
· Wages and salaries
· Sector employment

· Economic incentives and disincentives (e.g. subsidies, taxes, buy back)
· Command and control measures

Institutions/ governance

· Employment policies
· Absence of user or property rights

· % resources assessed
· % with management plans
· % management cost recovery
· Rate of compliance
· % resources co-managed

· % resources assessed
· Job conversion programmes
· Retraining programmes
· Number of compliance operations


FAO is a key contributor1 to the work of the CSD, which, by consensus, has adopted the Driving Force-State-Response (DSR) framework for indicators, another process variant that reflects in the simplest way the development perspective of the system, i.e. what is it all for, what is driving it?

The standard CSD approach - using the Driving Force-State-Pressure framework - is to evolve a set of indicators that can be used for sustainable development using the following general methodology sheet, which is structured as follows.

Table 2: Methodology Sheet for Indicators

At the time of writing the overall indicator set for sustainable development contains 134 indicators, five of which relate to Chapter 17: Protection of the Ocean, all Kinds of Seas, including Enclosed and Semi-enclosed Seas, and Coastal Areas; and the Protection, Rational Use and Development of their Living Resources.

The methodology sheet is a useful framework for the definition of a wide variety of indicators (whether used at a regional or global level, or specifically for the CSD indicator system).

The Commission for Sustainable Development has published two indicators according to the above ISD framework (Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and Releases of nitrogen and phosphorous to coastal waters); and three are under development (Population growth in coastal areas, Discharges of oil into coastal waters, and Algae index). (see http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/indisd/english/chapt17e.htm).

The relevance of MSY to RFBs is clear and the methodology sheet prepared by FAO and published on the web by the CSD is at Annex 1. Other indicators may be described in a similar way.

Applebaum, B and A. Donohue. 1999. The Role of Regional Fisheries Organizations, in Ellen Hey (Ed.), Developments in International Fisheries Law, Kluwer Law International.

Bossel, H. 1999. Indicators for Sustainable Development: theory, method, applications. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Manitoba, Canada.

Chesson, J. and H. Clayton. 1998 A framework for assessing fisheries with respect to ecologically sustainable development. Fisheries Resources Branch, Australia.

FAO. 2000. Indicators for Sustainable Development of Marine Capture Fisheries. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fishing, No.8.

Federal Planning Bureau of Belgium. 1997. Launching the testing of indicators of sustainable development. Report of the Second International Workshop of Ghent, Belgium, 20-22 November 1996.

Garcia, S.M. (in press) The FAO definition of sustainable development and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries: an analysis of the related principles criteria and indicators. Paper prepared for the Australian-FAO Technical Consultation on Sustainability Indicators for Marine Capture Fisheries, Sydney, Australia,18-22 January 1999. Marine and Freshwater Research.

Garcia, S.M. and D. Staples (in press) Sustainability Reference Systems and indicators for responsible marine capture fisheries: a review of concepts and elements for a set of Guidelines. Paper prepared for the Australian-FAO Technical Consultation on Sustainability Indicators for Marine Capture Fisheries, Sydney, Australia,18-22 January 1999. Marine and Freshwater Research.

Hardi, P. and T. Zdan (eds) 1997. Assessing Sustainable Developments: Principles in practice. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Manitoba, Canada.

Meadows, D. 1998. Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development. The Sustainability Institute, Vermont.

Moldan, B., B. Billharz and R. Matravers (eds). 1997. Sustainability Indicators: A report on the project on indicators in sustainable development. SCOPE Scientific Committee on Problems in the Environment. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Pinter, L., K. Zahedi and D Cressman. 2000. Capacity Building for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Reporting: Training Manual. IISD/UNEP.

UNCED 1994. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: Agenda 21 Protection of the Oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas. And coastal areas and protection, rational use and development of their living resources.



Chapter 17


1 Through the Assistant Director General, Sustainable Development Department.