Managing fisheries when there’s not much data
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|Managing fisheries with limited data: technical and participatory approaches|
Tapping into fishers’ knowledge opens the door to a wealth of data. This is invaluable in fisheries where there may be very little information or no records at all. As new fisheries are still being discovered in less-developed countries – and there’s very little information about many existing fisheries – asking fishers to share their knowledge helps managers quickly weigh up the state of a fishery. In Namibia, Zanzibar, the Galapagos, Kenya, India, Gabon, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and the Seychelles fishers have shared important information with scientists, managers and stakeholders and helped develop plans for fisheries. Namibia, St Helena and Tonga have adopted precautionary management based on fishers’ knowledge, and the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago are planning to adopt this approach too.
Project Ref: FMSP06:
Fisheries Management Science Programme
Relevant Research Projects:
R6437 – Management Strategies for New or Lightly Exploited Fisheries
R7947 – Integrated fisheries management using Bayesian multi-criterion decision making
R8397 – Uptake of Participatory Fisheries Stock Assessment (PFSA) Toolkit
R8464 – Application and promotion of FMSP Participatory Fisheries Stock Assessment (ParFish)
For many developing country fisheries, little data is available upon which management decisions can be based. For sustainable management, there is therefore a need for methods to inform decisions about what management measures and targets for effort levels and yields should be adopted. For both commercial and small-scale fisheries, appropriate precautionary management is required to prevent or address the over-exploitation of a potentially valuable, sustainable fishery, and that takes into account the social, biological and economic aspects of the fishery.
This cluster includes two main products, both of which are aimed at fisheries that have limited data available for conducting conventional stock assessments:
Precautionary management methods:
Methods for stock assessment that can be used with new or lightly exploited fisheries for which minimal data are available were developed over the period 1996 – 1999. These methods are based on Bayesian rather than frequentist statistical approaches to stock assessment, where uncertainties are dealt with using decision analysis. This allows management targets to be set, even when little data are available, and for management to proceed on a precautionary basis. It also enables the possible effects of different management and monitoring strategies to be explored and evaluated.
ParFish is a new approach to stock assessment that was developed over the period 2000 – 2005. Small-scale and multispecies fisheries play a vital role in the livelihoods of millions of people, predominantly in developing countries. Information is key to sound management and policy making, but limited resources results in a lack of information concerning these fisheries. ParFish is a tool that enables management recommendations to be identified quickly, based on an initial stock assessment, even where no previous data exist. It addresses many of the problems associated with stock assessments for small-scale fisheries and supports co-management.
ParFish is based on conventional models, but does not require long time series of data, using instead Bayesian Statistics to incorporate fishers’ knowledge on the resource, which is collected through structured interviews, and provides a starting point for the stock assessment. Where long-term catch and effort dataexist, they can be incorporated with interview data and fishing experiment data
An initial assessment can be carried out quickly through the use of rapid data collection techniques, and the participatory process that surrounds the data collection and stock assessment supports co-management by bringing together fishers, scientists, managers and other stakeholders in a dialogue for learning, management planning and implementation that supports more effective resource management.
The main commodities that these outputs are focussed are capture fishery resources. This includes coastal, inland and deep sea fish stocks, including fish, crustaceans and shell-fish.
Value could be added to these outputs by clustering them with other outputs that focus on governance issues in natural resource management. In particular, for ‘management strategies for new or lightly exploited fisheries’, relevant issues are precautionary management, good governance and tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. For ParFish, issues surrounding decentralised management, participation and governance for natural resource management are highly relevant.
Management strategies for new or lightly exploited fisheries in developing countries could be clustered with the following FMSP outputs:
ParFish could be clustered with:
How the outputs were validated:
Precautionary management methods:
The precautionary management methods were developed through a theoretical phase which developed the Bayesian statistical methods. These methods were tested and validated through two case studies: a newly discovered orange roughy fishery in Namibia and the Tongan seamount fishery for snappers and groupers. In the former, validation was carried out by scientists from Imperial College and counterparts in the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Alternative fishery development strategies were evaluated and the results presented to the Namibian Deepwater Fisheries Working Group, forming the primary basis for formulation of scientific advice to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. In the Tongan example, a detailed spatial model of the fish stocks, commercial and artisanal fleets and fishing tactics was developed, and the expected outcomes of different management options were assessed. Validation was carried out using data from the Department of Fisheries and involved fisheries officers in workshops.
In Turks and Caicos, validation was carried out by comparing a stock assessment based on ParFish fisher interviews with one based on the excellent catch-effort data set available for this fishery. A retrospective analysis was carried out which simulated applying ParFish recommendations to the stock size in 1976 and predicted what the outcome on the fishery would have been. The conclusion was if the recommended quota (based only on fisher interviews) had been applied in 1976, then the overfishing of the conch stock that occurred in the 1980s would have been avoided. This would have avoided the drop in export earnings and the reduced income for the fishers. Validation was carried out by the MRAG team in partnership with the Department for the Environment and Coastal Resources, TCI.
The approach was also validated by implementing the process for coral reef fisheries in Zanzibar. Interviews and a fishing experiment were carried out and data were analysed using the software. These indicated that there was a chance the stock was overfished, although there was considerable uncertainty. Meetings and workshops were held with fishers and other stakeholders to discuss the results. The process was very successful in bringing together the different stakeholder groups, building up a dialogue and initiating discussion of precautionary management options. Testing was carried out with the Institute of Marine Science (intermediary and target organisation as well as end user), the Zanzibar Department of Fisheries (government department and end user), MRAG (private company), fishers (end users and beneficiaries) and other local researchers and fishery officers. The social group to which the product was applied was fisher communities, which may include poor people living in remote areas, moderate poor, assetless (or near assetless) households in rural areas.
Validation was carried out on a mud crab fishery in Andhra Pradesh, India, by the State Institute for Fisheries Technology (government department, target institution and end user), the State Department of Fisheries (government department, target institution and end user), MRAG, United Fishermens Association (grass-roots organisation) and the fishers (end users and beneficiaries). The value of the participatory approach was again demonstrated, but there was no comparable stock assessment with which results could be compared.
Where the Outputs were Validated:
Precautionary management methods:
In Namibia, the outputs were validated during 1997-1999 for the orange roughy fishery. The production system involved was deep sea fishing. No particular social group was targeted but the management recommendations would be applicable to the (commercial) fishing vessels targeting the orange roughy fishery.
In Tonga, the outputs were validated during the period 1996 – 1999. The production system involved was deep sea fishing for a seamount fishery for primarily snappers and groupers. The validation was carried out mainly with the Tongan Department of Fisheries as the project was enabling, aiming to build capacity for better management in a fishery that involves both commercial and artisanal fishers.
The outputs were also used to inform fisheries negotiations for St Helena and associated dependencies during 1998-1999.
ParFish has been tested and validated in the following places:
Who are the Users?
Precautionary management methods:
The methods were adopted and continue to inform management in the Namibian orange roughy fishery where they are used by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Involvement in the development and use of the assessment methods has developed capacity in Bayesian assessment techniques amongst Namibian scientists, who are able to perform the stock assessments independently. Namibia currently has precautionary management for orange roughy.
In practice, the methods have had a major impact on the approaches adopted during a recently completed EC-funded project carried out jointly by MRAG and Italian and Icelandic research institutes (FAIR-CT95-0561 ‘Innovative integrated bioeconomic models for the management of multi-species multi-gear fisheries’).
Academic papers published on the methods have been regularly cited, suggesting the outputs remain relevant to fisheries assessment and continue to be useful to those conducting assessments and managing fisheries.
ParFish is currently being used for participatory stock assessment to involve fishers and inform management by:
ParFish has also been incorporated into training courses for stock assessment and to illustrate how various aspects of fisheries assessment can be applied and simplified to obtain management recommendations (Rhodes University, South Africa, Honours course in Fisheries Science, and Cantho University, Vietnam).
Where the outputs have been used:
Precautionary management methods:
These are currently being used in Namibia and have informed management in St Helena and Tonga.
ParFish is currently being used in a number of countries:
Scale of Current Use:
Use of the precautionary management methods is currently localised, although there is potential for use to spread. Although many fisheries are over-exploited, lightly exploited fisheries do exist and new fisheries continue to be found, many in the waters of less-developed countries. Even heavily exploited fisheries often lack data for management and these methods can contribute to their management.
ParFish use is currently spread across three continents (Asia, Africa and Americas (Caribbean)), although in each place its use is localised, focussed on a specific artisanal fishery. Use has been established in these places over the course of the last two years, following on from testing and promotional work that was carried out during 2003 and 2004 (testing) and 2005 (testing and promotion). There has been widespread interest in the approach, with over 250 separate downloads of the software from the FMSP website alone, and a further 75 hard copies of the manuals and software being distributed. However, this has not yet translated into widespread use because many people have not had time in their existing workloads to follow it up. There is still considerable potential for usage of ParFish to spread, based on the interest that has been demonstrated by organisations such as the Marine Stewardship Council (in relation to certification of small-scale fisheries in developing countries), FAO (in relation to their strategy for improving the information on the status and trends of small-scale fisheries) and in-country target institutions such as the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) and the Faculty for Aquatic Science and Technology (FAST) in Tanzania. The general trend towards participatory and co-management of fisheries across the world also supports the argument that usage, uptake and adoption has great potential, as tools which support this process on a practical level will be required.
Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:
Precautionary management methods
Adoption of the precautionary management methods and stock assessment techniques was facilitated in Namibia by long-term investment by the Government in developing human resources capacity in the fisheries sector. Thus, relatively well-qualified and trained scientists were available to collaborate in implementing the methods, and subsequently adopted them independently. Because these methods are fairly complex, they require a level of understanding of stock assessment theory and approaches before they can be used by fisheries management and research institutes. In Tonga, initial capacity was much lower, making the uptake and adoption process more difficult. The key to successful uptake is long-term support and follow-up, to promote the methods and provide ongoing support for potential users.
Development of a range of communication materials such as flyers, policy briefs and summary documents and their distribution through various channels (internet, email, hard copies, workshops and through personal contacts) has been successful in raising awareness of ParFish. Specific platforms that have been utilised for promotion include the WIOMSA newsletters; Fisheries Management Science Programme website; http://www.eldis.org/; TECA website, DFID’s Research for Development website and FAO’s onefish and Participation websites.
Capacity building and sharing of experiences have been identified as essential for its uptake and adoption. A good example is the experience of IMS in Zanzibar. IMS was involved in developing the questionnaire and other data collection methodologies, they worked alongside the MRAG researchers, who were developing the approach, and facilitated workshops and coordinated all activities with the fishers. This long-term training and practical experience helped build IMS’s capacity, confidence and understanding of the approach. Furthermore, a visit by Dr Jiddawi from IMS to a ParFish training workshop in India, where Indian fishery officers presented their experiences of applying ParFish, was also very important in building this capacity, putting Dr Jiddawi in contact with others that had used the approach. IMS has the ability to apply the technique without intervention from the original researchers; most others still require support for the software, which is technically the most difficult part.
Lessons Learned and Uptake Pathways
Promotion of Outputs:
Precautionary management methods:
Currently being promoted on the FMSP and TECA (Technologies for Agriculture) websites. Scientific papers that have been peer-reviewed and published continue to promote the methods and have been regularly cited in the academic literature. The methods will also be published as part of FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 487, ‘Stock Assessment for Fishery Management: A Framework Guide to the use of the FMSP Stock Assessment Tools’. This will be distributed in hard copy to over 3,000 individuals in Ministries and Departments of Fisheries, and will be available in PDF on the FAO website.
In the Caribbean, promotion is taking place throughpersonalcontacts and via regional fisheries meetings. In Tanzania,IMS have distributed flyers to colleagues in other departments and organisations. They respond to queries about ParFish and continue to promote it. In India,ParFish is being promoted through the organisations that are using and testing the approach.ParFish is also being promoted generally on a non-country-specific basis, through word of mouth and personal contacts and also througha number of websites:
ParFish is also included as a chapter in the FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No 487 and included in the FMSP co-management policy brief.
Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:
Precautionary management methods:
The main barrier preventing the adoption of this output is that, because the method is relatively complex, it requires well-trained people with a good understanding of stock assessment approaches. The lack of capacity in this area amongst fisheries department staff in many developing countries therefore makes its adoption difficult. Fisheries management arrangements also need to have clear objectives in place and a process that enables management measures to be revised in response to recommendations from the stock assessments and precautionary management put in place.
The main barriers preventing or slowing the adoption of ParFish are:
How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:
In order to foster a better common understanding of the benefits of well managed fisheries and the costs of not managing them, this there is a need for raising both public and fisher awareness and to sensitise policy makers to the issues.
Precautionary management methods:
Capacity-building in stock assessment of fisheries department or research institute staff is important. The techniques are relatively complex and require a good understanding of the issues at hand to be able to carry out stock assessments. Training must be followed up with even low level but regular external support until stock assessment tools and management processes are embedded.
Fisheries and rural development policies need to be supportive of co-management and resource users’ involvement in the management process and recognise the importance of small-scale fisheries. This is already happening to a some degree, but needs effective translation into practice.
Implementation of one or more case studies over a sufficient time-frame to follow the process through to implementing management measures would provide demonstration cases as evidence that the approach has been used and works in various situations. One should be for a fishery with good existing stock assessment data, so that ParFish can be compared with conventional stock assessment results. It is important that the robustness of ParFish is proven for wider adoption.
Develop Centres of Excellence (CoEs) to support its implementation: This process has begun with IMS in Zanzibar, which can serve as a resource centre for applying ParFish in Eastern Africa. CRFM and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) could also be such Centres in the Caribbean and Pacific, respectively. Other institutions could be identified and trained to provide CoEs for Asia and West Africa.
Increase capacity of target end users (fisheries or NGO staff): There is already a high degree of interest in the approach, but potential users need a more detailed introduction to ParFish, to give them the confidence to put it into practice. This could be done: (i) through meetings at a regional level, bringing together people from different institutions and departments in a two-day seminar; (ii) through specific training workshops; or (iii) through case studies in collaboration with developing country institutions, so they receive training ‘on-the-job’.
It is important to improve understanding among decision-makers of the benefits of stock assessment for fisheries management. Both Precautionary management methods and, to a lesser extent, ParFish, are enabling technologies and require implementation by intermediary organisations to have an impact on poor people.
ParFish provides an opportunity to deal with conflicts and generate agreed actions which may not be obtained in other ways. By integrating the scientific part (stock assessment) of fisheries management into the co-management process, ParFish provides a better chance of long term sustainability which co-management alone cannot.
It is necessary to make stock assessment, the most difficult area of fisheries management for managers to understand, more accessible. ParFish goes some way towards this by addressing how the scientific concepts are communicated and understood among fishers, managers and scientists. This requires on-going development. Once there is a common understanding of such issues such as “overfishing” and “uncertainty”, it is more likely that appropriate management actions will follow where there is co-operation within a community and a supportive external environment. Since ParFish generally needs the intervention of an intermediary organisation, such as the Department of Fisheries or an NGO, getting the outputs used by poor people usually requires these institutions to adopt the approach.
Uptake will improve if there are more obvious and direct benefit to fishers in developing access to markets and improved prices for fish products. Small-scale fisheries in developing countries often have difficulty getting certified due to the lack of stock assessment information. By integrating stock assessment with the co-management approach, ParFish can support fisheries’ claims of sustainability and thereby potentially increase market access.
Impacts On Poverty
Poverty Impact Studies:
Arthur, R.I., E. Fisher, R. Mwaipopo, X. Irz, and C. Thirtle, (2005). Fisheries Management Science Programme: An overview of developmental impact to 2005, Final Technical Report., MRAG Ltd. (http://www.fmsp.org.uk/ Search Project Database, Project R4778C; http://www.fmsp.org.uk/Documents/r4778c/R4778C_FTR.pdf;
Halls, A. S. & Arthur, R. (2006). Assessment of the Impact of the FMSP: A summary of the assessment of impact from the perspectives of key fisheries institutions and researchers. Report to the DFID, London, MRAG Ltd. http://www.fmsp.org.uk/Documents/r4778c/R4778C_Rep1.pdf;
Walmsley, S.F., Medley, P.A.H. & Howard, C.A. (2005) Application and promotion of FMSP Participatory Fisheries Stock Assessment (ParFish). Final Technical Report. London, MRAG.
How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):
Precautionary management methods:
In Namibia, application of these outputs and implementation of a precautionary approach to management of the orange roughy fishery is believed to have contributed to the development of a sustainable fishery that contributes to employment and revenue in Namibia. Although direct impacts on poor people are difficult to assess, fisheries is the second most important sector to the Namibian economy after mining, and a proportion of the revenues from fisheries are put into a social fund for education and health clinics across the country. The policy of ‘Namibianisation’ of the fisheries, where licences are given preferentially to newcomers to the fisheries, and to Namibian-owned companies, has increased national participation in the fisheries and contributed to poverty reduction. The development of on-shore processing provides about half of the 14,220 jobs in fisheries in the country.
In Tonga, direct impacts from the methods are not known, but the recommendations arising from the model included restriction of commercial fishing on the seamounts primarily exploited by the artisanal fleet, to reduce the probability of over-exploitation of the seamounts on which the artisanal fishers depend.
Positive impacts on livelihoods of fishers and fishing communities have been realised in Zanzibar, Tanzania, through participatory management of fishery resources:
Also benefits have been realised by institutions involved IMS and Zanzibar Department of Fisheries, in particular relating to an increase in capacity, particularly in IMS.
One of the key positive impacts is the improved relationship and cooperation that the institutions now have with the fishers. It has opened up dialogue between them, there is more communication and the relationship between them has improved. This has knock-on effects to other lines of work with the fishers and discussions about management issues continue.
It is too early to detail any percentage increases in particular indicators, as changes in management need to be implemented, and then take time to have an impact on catch rates and incomes.
Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:
The application of these technologies is expected to bring environmental benefits from sustainable exploitation of fishery resources, and avoid negative environmental impacts that arise from over-fishing: stock depletion, collapse and associated impacts on the wider ecosystem.
Sustainable exploitation of fishery resources means that the social and economic benefits derived from them, such as food security, employment and income, can be maintained for years to come.
In the case of ParFish, the fishing experiment that is conducted by fishers demonstrates that they can have an impact on the stock and have the capability to over-fish it. This can raise their awareness of the importance of management and controlling effort in order to sustain their catches in the long term.
Adverse Environmental Impacts:
It is not anticipated that the application of these outputs would result in any negative environmental impacts. One part of the ParFish methodology includes a fishing experiment which involves fishing down a small area of the fishery over a period of a few days. However, guidance is provided to ensure that this is not irreversible and in tests, the area has been repopulated with fish through immigration in a matter of days. In fact, this exercise may serve to benefit the environment, as it raises fishers’ awareness of the impacts they have on the environment.
Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:
The FMSP has undertaken an evaluation of the impacts of climate change on fisheries associated livelihoods, which is the subject of a separate proforma. Climate change is anticipated to have effects on fisheries associated with particular habitat systems, such as floodplains or coral reefs, and on fish migrations (e.g anchovies) associated with ocean currents that may be affected by changes in cyclical climatic events such as El Nino. Adaptive responses of communities to variable conditions and the need to build adaptive capacity to climate change are described more fully in that cluster. Better management of fisheries is a key element of building adaptive capacity. ParFish, by establishing a management framework that involves resource users and is adaptive, can help build resilience into the system and help to limit the detrimental effects of climate change. Integrated management responses must be developed linking fishing departments and policy makers with risk reduction planners and disaster control agencies. These outputs applied together will thus increase the capacity of poor people to cope with the effects of climate change, and increase their resilience.
Relevant Research Projects, with links to the