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Identify suitable indicators and their associated limit/target/etc reference levels to enable the assessment of performance for each operational objective.

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.

 

Relevant questions

  • Is there already an indicator being used?
  • What levels of the indicator define acceptable performance for the objective and why?
  • How precise/robust does the indicator and performance measure need to be to match the risk profile of the fishery?
  • How much resources are there to spend on their measurement?
  • Would the cost of moving to a more robust indicator be worth the additional expense?
  • Are the resources sufficient to maintain the indicator system as long as needed - are the proposed indicators compatible with monitoring and evaluation capacity available?
  • If there are more than one indicator/performance measure to be used for the objective, how they will work together to determine the assessment outcome?
  • To what degree should the indicator – performance measure – management systems be formalised - Is it appropriate to generate harvest strategy/control rules?

Key actions

  • Identify possible indicators to measure performance for each operational objective.
  • Agree on what is considered acceptable performance for the objective and why.
  • Agree on the level of precision and accuracy required.
  • Review what data/information are available and relative costs for each possible indicator given their relative uncertainty.
  • Determine the most cost effective options.
  • Given the levels of uncertainty in the indicator, determine what will signify acceptable and unacceptable performance.
  • If more than one indicator/performance measure is to be used for the objective, determine how they will work together to determine the assessment outcome.

Tools

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.
 
Most of the reviews each only cover one category of EAF issues (e.g. capture species, ecosystem, social, economic) and specific summary reviews have been and are currently being generated by FAO to assist find the right performance monitoring system.  A number of EAF manuals and summaries are also available that catalogue many of the relevant indicators across the full spectrum of EAF categories and there are a number of examples of Community Based Monitoring systems. 

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.

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

Tools and information sources

Selection criteria

Difficulty

Cost

Capacity

Know.

Participation

Time

Reviews and summaries of indicators and performance measures Easy L-M M L-M L-M S
Community Based Monitoring Easy L L L M-H S-M
Collecting fishery data for performance management Easy L-H L-M L L-H S-M
Harvest Strategies and Control Rules Fairly Hard M M M L-M M

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

 


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