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2. Ecosystem approach to fisheries data and information requirements and use

Data and information are the basis of good management. They underpin all stages in the EAF management process including formulating policy, developing management plans, and evaluating progress and updating policy and plans to provide for continuous improvement (see Chapter 4 and Figure 1 for details on this overall management process). As pointed out in FM Guidelines, although the data and information required for each of these stages overlap, the processes are distinct, occur on different time scales and require information at different levels of detail and aggregation. The guidelines in this Supplement do not re-iterate many of the important points concerning data collection and analyses already stated in the FM Guidelines, but attempt to show instead where EAF will require a broadening of data, analyses and information provision.

Because EAF is a broadening of current fisheries management practices, the data and information needs will by necessity be broader. However, it is important to stress that immediate action should be based, as much as possible, on data and information that already exist. In some countries, much of the information will already be available in reports and statistics from various research institutes, agencies and ministries. In others, EAF will have to be based on comparatively fewer data. However, in these cases there is often extensive traditional knowledge about the ecosystem and the fishery, which can be extremely useful if collected and validated from interviews with local fishermen and other stakeholders. In all cases, information about the local situation should be complemented by information from ecologically similar situations elsewhere.

2.1 Policy formulation

Policy development will be informed by broad information on the role that fisheries play in terms of the regional, national and local economy and social setting. As in TROM and other fishery management responses, information should be collected about the stakeholders, economic factors related to the fishery, details on costs and benefits, role in providing employment or livelihood, alternative sources of employment and livelihoods, status of access to or ownership of the resource, institutions currently involved in planning and decision-making, along with a historical perspective of the fishery and its stakeholders. Under EAF, similar knowledge of alternative uses and users of the resources within the ecosystem will be required, and a better understanding of the many interactions that occur within the system is fundamental. A fishery will often affect species whose distribution extends beyond the distribution area of the fishery. Other users should also be informed by the fishery sector on the role fisheries play in the broader social and economical setting and on how any actions may affect other stakeholders.

2.2 Developing management plans

Formulating management plans is an important component of implementing EAF (see Chapter 4). To the extent possible, plans must be based on an understanding of a broad background of knowledge, although a lack of data or uncertainty about the impact of the fishery should not be used as an argument for delaying the formulation of an EAF management plan. Only in situations where the existing information is insufficient to decide whether a potentially important impact does actually take place will it be necessary to collect and analyse additional data (rapid assessment techniques, for example).

As described in the FM Guidelines, the information that feeds into a fishery management plan should include:

In addition to these TROM requirements, the potential direct and indirect effects of the fishery on species and habitats will also need to be described. Ideally, the information should consider the following, but if this is not possible, at least a comment about the following should be included:

The guidelines stress the need to translate policy goals and broad fishery objectives into operational objectives in order to implement EAF. The process also needs to be informed by the best available scientific advice so that, firstly, all the issues relevant to a particular fishery have been covered and secondly, that all alternative objectives, indicators and reference points can be assessed.

2.3 Monitoring, implementing and performance reviews

The setting of operational objectives and indicators will identify what information will need to be routinely collected in order to feed into the decision-making process, as well as the short-term (annual) and long-term (3–5years) reviews and assessments of management performance. As will be pointed out in Chapter 4, the indicators that are developed may vary from fishery to fishery, depending on the main issues identified for a particular fishery. However, many fisheries will have a basic set of common issues, objectives, indicators for which data and information will be required. These will cover the ecological (including the fisheries resources), economic and social dimensions of sustainable development. A hypothetical example is given in Annex 4, which sets out some possible operational objectives, examples of indicators linked to these objectives and the data that are needed in order to calculate values for the various indictors. This example is by necessity a simplification of what might be normally required in a complex fishery working in an EAF planning and decision-making environment, but serves to demonstrate how data should be to collected to fit in with the management process.

2.4 Uncertainty and the role of research

Given the complexity of the ecosystems in which fisheries operate and the dynamic nature of the myriad of interactions that can occur, science (in its broadest sense word including biologists, mathematicians, sociologists, economists and technologists working in collaboration with stakeholders) cannot possibly hope to deliver on all the information required. Critical research to reduce some of this uncertainty will be presented in Chapter 5. There is an obvious need for more ecosystem information, for better information on social and ecological implications, for an understanding of the management process itself (including the provision of information in decision support systems) and for monitoring and assessment methods.

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