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5. Research for an improved EAF

The process described in Chapter 4, if carried out successfully, will inevitably highlight areas of uncertainty and show where further research is needed. More importantly, from the fishery management perspective, it will identify the priority needs for the fishery and assist in guiding research investment. Some relevant areas of research that would lead to improved ability to implement effective EAF are listed below. The order does not reflect any particular priority.

5.1 Ecosystems and fishery impact assessments

1. Obtain better information on how ecosystems function, especially in terms of inter-species interactions, and how these lead to higher ecosystem properties.

2. Expand knowledge of how fishing impacts target stocks, especially genetic studies on stock identity as the basis for effective management units, assessment of the minimum levels of biomass compatible with the maintenance of the species’ ecosystem function and the identification of spawning and nursery areas for effective management of these vulnerable stages of the life cycle.

3. Conduct research into the impact of fishing on non-target species through by-catch and discarding and what it is doing to food-web interactions, habitats and biodiversity. Habitats relevant to critical ecosystem processes (such as nursery grounds) will need to be identified, and ‘gap analysis’ strategies performed, to allow the identification of minimum sets of different critical habitats.

4. Develop appropriate multispecies bio-economic models, as well as extended ecological models that include the economic and social dimensions (private and societal returns, income distribution, employment, incidence of poverty and impact on food security).

5.2 Socio-economic consideration

5. Conduct research into the factors that influence the day-to-day behaviour of vessel operators/skippers, especially with regard to the choice of fishing gear and fishing ground, and levels of discarding.

6. Apply economic valuation methods, including the pros and cons of different methods in different circumstances.

7. Apply an integrated environmental and economic accounting framework to the assessment and analysis of the interaction between fisheries and other sectors of the economy.

5.3 Assessment of management measures

8. Conduct research and develop technology in the area of fishing gear and practices to improve gear selectivity and reduce the impact of gear on ecosystems.

9. Develop strategies/procedure to assess and integrate traditional ecosystem knowledge into management. This will apply not only to traditional fisheries, but also to the wide spectrum of fishing activities in which the knowledge of the people who spend their lives observing fishery resources and ecosystem could be more systematically utilized.

10. Identify the species (and ecosystems) that are suitable for restocking/stock enhancement programmes, and develop more adequate release strategies for them. Procedures will also have to be developed to assess the carrying capacity of the natural ecosystems with respect to the species to be restocked/stock enhanced.

11. The potential of MPAs (a biodiversity conservation measure) as a fisheries management measure needs to be better assessed, including research to clarify where MPAs will be most effective. Research will be needed on many aspects of MPAs, including whether propagules from MPAs replenish the surrounding areas that remain open to fishing, and whether any such replenishment result in an increase in catches great enough to offset catches lost from the closed area. Further questions include determining what proportion of the area occupied by a species needs to be dedicated as an MPA to optimize the trade-off between increased egg production and loss of catches; whether or not one MPA be used to manage several species simultaneously; and whether the life history patterns of species vary so much that MPAs of different sizes and different locations would be needed to achieve the desired goals for each species. It should be decided whether MPAs could include fishing activities, and how MPAs perform in relation to external impacts.

12. Artificial habitats are another area for research in terms of their usefulness and effectiveness for fisheries. Comparative studies involving case studies developed in different ecosystems are needed.

13. Culling is controversial topic requiring further research. A thorough review of global experiences would be informative.

5.4 Assessment and improving the management process

14. The many steps in the management process itself, as described in Chapter 4, could benefit from further research. For instance, research is needed on how better to compile data for management plans, how to evaluate management performance, and how to include uncertainty and risk assessments in the process.

15. Development of better participatory processes is critical, and sociological research on how to improve the consultation process with stakeholders will become increasingly important. Sociological research will also be required for assessing the impact of different management measures on the varied stakeholders and minimizing undesirable impacts. This will be especially important where alternative livelihoods and employment must be found to alleviate chronic overfishing and overcapacity.

16. Better ways of communicating the implications of different management strategies need to be developed. A broad range of decision-support systems is used in other natural resource management (e.g. “what if” computer modelling that allow user participation and analyses of trade-offs), but few are available in an EAF context.

5.5 Monitoring and assessments

17. The broadening of issues to be considered in the context of EAF will also require the development of simpler, more rapid appraisal methods, both in the field (to monitor and assess the state of the ecosystem) and at an analytical level (to evaluate decision rules and/or develop a generic “template” to form the basis for such evaluations). Development of adaptive management approaches to assist with data-poor situations will also be needed.

18. Develop several analytical techniques to underpin the decision-making process, including analyses to assist in setting reference points, and to evaluate potential decision rules. These techniques are continually being improved and are an important research topic in their own right.

19. Although specific objectives, indicators and reference points will vary among fisheries, a set of generic indicators needs to be identified. This must be a set of indicators common to most fisheries that are sufficiently general to be useful, at least as a starting point, and sufficiently specific to be meaningful. The set could be applied as a basis for starting EAF in relatively data-poor situations (an example is given in Appendix 4). The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research-Intergovernmental Oceano-graphic Commission Working Group 119 (SCOR-IOC WG 119), entitled “Quantitative ecosystem indicators for fisheries management”, is aimed at identifying appropriate framework and indicators to be used in EAF. The working group is reviewing and selecting existing indicators and developing new ones, when necessary, for the exploitation of marine ecosystems that take factors of environmental (climate change as well as habitat modification), ecological (species and size based, trophodynamics) and fisheries perspectives (integrated indicators) into consideration.[11] It is aimed at evaluating and selecting indicators and the different frameworks within which they can be used and applied.

[11] The FAO Secretariat intends to review these guidelines to take account of this work when it is completed.

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