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Prioritise the issues using risk assessment principles to help determine which ones need to be directly managed

Overview of the activity

A large number of issues can be generated through the issue identification process, even for a small fishery. It is therefore essential to determine their priority to decide if you should, or should not, be undertaking any direct management actions to ensure the appropriate use of what are usually scarce resources.

Most robust prioritization processes are based on risk assessment principles because these directly assess the likelihood of not achieving acceptable performance against each relevant management objective. Because risk includes uncertainty, these assessments can be completed with little or no quantitative data.  We deal daily with risk and uncertainty (even activities such as crossing a road) but generally we don’t realise it.  Risk assessment principles enable making the most informed decision with whatever information is available.

To determine the priorities for the fishery, the approach taken is to ask - what is the ‘risk’ that the current fishery management system will not meet its agreed objectives for each of the identified issues?  Where the current or anticipated future performance of the fishery is not considered acceptable, direct management actions would need to be applied.

If an issue is associated with more than one objective (e.g. target stocks often have economic &/or social objectives in addition to stock sustainability), the performance for each of these should be assessed separately as the risks may differ. If a number of issues have high or unacceptable ‘risk’ ratings, additional prioritization that considers their relative importance to community outcomes may be needed to determine which of these issues should be addressed, or in what order.

Relevant questions

For each issue:

  • Which high level objectives (ecological, social, etc) are relevant for the issue being examined?
  • With the current management arrangements, are you ‘happy’ with the current or likely future performance of the fishery for each of the relevant objectives? 
  • If you are happy with the performance, is this outcome the direct result of the current set of management arrangements and actions which then need to be continued or merely an indirect effect and no direct actions are needed?
  • If you are unhappy, how unhappy are you, and is this something that can be directly improved by changing the management  arrangements (e.g. reducing catch or effort) or is the problem outside your control and can only be taken into consideration (e.g. exchange rates).
  • Which of the high risk issues is/are considered to be the most important to address, based either on its alignment with the high level objectives, or if it affects the most outcomes.

Key actions

  • Individually assess the specific risk or relative priority for each identified issue.
  • Obtain stakeholder feedback on risk outcomes.
  • Examine any relationships or interactions among issues and their associated objectives.
  • Decide which issues will or will not be directly managed by the management plan.
  • Determine which of the issues should be dealt with first &/or the relative level of resources that should be applied.

Tools

There are a number of different methods available for use which can be separated into a number of categories; including informal vote and simple risk ranking which can operate with minimal levels of data and therefore higher levels of direct stakeholder involvement. There are also a number of more formal qualitative risk assessment methods, which require more information and a greater technical capacity of those involved in the informal assessments.  Two common versions are the CxL based methods (for qualitative analysis of ecological, social and economic components), and the SICA based method (for qualitative ecological analysis).  Where more data and technical capacity are available, semi-quantitative methods such as PSA that examine the inherent vulnerability of a species may be useful.  Even fully quantitative risk methods can be used by those fisheries with sufficient data and access to specialists in simulation modeling and their use is warranted.

To assist compare priorities among issues that may have similar individual risk scores or levels, simple informal vote ranking methods are especially useful where the comparison of priorities is among different social or economic issues.  More complicated multi-criteria analyses can be used to separate among high risk issues where there is sufficient information and agreement about the criteria to use.

Different consultation methods can be used to assess the risks for different types of issues and objectives.  The type of audience can also affect what may be the best method.  Furthermore the different methods can sometimes best be used in combination to obtain the most effective input from different stakeholder groups and therefore the most robust and accepted priorities. For the highly technical analyses that involve complicated methods, only a small number of individuals effectively participate (but a broader group can be observers).  Therefore, the best consultation mechanism can vary from the use of a single expert to obtaining input from the entire community.

  • Is the issue of a technical or scientific nature or community value-based? The more technical, greater weight may need to be placed on expert opinion. For community value-based issues, stakeholder input will generally be the most important.
  • How much relevant information is available? With less available information available, less sophisticated methods are probably more appropriate.
  • What is the capacity and technical knowledge of the stakeholders who will be involved?  Lower capacity will mean less technical tools should be used.
  • What is/are the best combination(s) of risk tools and consultation method(s) given the resources and information available?


The selection criteria for these tools are given in the table below.

Tools and information sources

Selection criteria

Difficulty

Cost

Capacity

Know.

Participation

Time

Formal Risk Categories Easy L L-M L H S
Qualitative Risk Analysis (CxL) Moderate L-M L-M L M S
Qualitative Risk Analysis (SICA) Fairly Hard M M M L M
Productivity Susceptibility Assessments (PSA) Fairly Hard M M M L M
Quantitative Risk Analysis Very Hard H H H L L
Dot ranked informal vote ranking Easy L L L H S
Multicriteria Analysis Moderate L-M M L-M L-M S-M

 L= Low or Long; H= High; M= Medium, S=Short

 


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