Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger
Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Activity 3.2 – Indicator and performance measure selection
Overview of the activity
The purpose of this activity is to identify relevant and cost effective indicators and their associated performance levels that can be used to monitor the success of the management plan in meeting each of the operational objectives. Therefore, across the fishery, a combination of ecological, social, economic and institutional indicators may be needed.
An indicator can be a quantitative or qualitative measure of some attribute of the fishery that is directly measured (e.g. % habitat trawled area using GPS tracks), estimated using a model (e.g. biomass estimated using a stock assessment model), measured indirectly (surrogate measures of biomass such as catch rates) or even just inferred (e.g. social unrest as an indicator of local attitudes to management). To interpret the indicator in relation to the operational objective, you need to determine what describes acceptable performance from unacceptable performance with these performance measures (or reference levels) taking a number of forms (e.g. limits, targets, suitable ranges, trends etc.).
More than one indicator (and their associated performance measures) may be used to monitor performance of the same operational objective (e.g. both fishery-based and fishery-independent biomass estimates). This can provide greater confidence where none are considered accurate by themselves, but requires determination of how they will be collectively interpreted to track performance when they show differing trends.
The precision of both the indicator and the performance levels must match the level of precaution used in the management settings. Where the risks are low, crude indicators may be fine. The selection of the indicator and performance limits must be done as a package with the determination of the level of complexity and precaution of the management responses. Where the inherent risks are higher, or the management approach is more aggressive, more robust and precise indicators and performance limits will be needed. The alternative is for the management to be more precautionary with appropriate adjustments made to the acceptable performance limits.
Indicators and performance levels related to measuring the targeted fisheries resources are well known and tested, plus many of these can be extended to non-target species. Some of the reviews go into detail about how each of the indicators behave for different issues and in different situations. Broader ecosystem indicators, and especially what levels of these indicators represent acceptable performance, are more problematic but more examples and a number of reviews of these now exist. For the social and economic objectives there are many potential indicators but relatively few applications have been made to fisheries, especially in an ongoing monitoring program.
The challenge for all fisheries is to select indicators that are affordable and match the sophistication of the management system. For small-scale and low value fisheries this may require the stakeholders to directly generate most of the information used to track performance.
As EAF is an adaptive management process this means that there needs to be a clear link between the system of indicators and the performance measures with the management cycle (see Step 4.2), one formal mechanism to link the indicator and performance measures with management is the use of harvest strategies or harvest control rules to establish pre-agreed courses of action. These are becoming more common to assist in the transparency of decision making and to provide more certainty for industry, but they do require a reasonable level of knowledge and monitoring data to function effectively.
L= Low or Long; H= High; M= Medium, S=Short