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Harvest Strategy & Reference Points

SUMMARY

This International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) issue brief outlines the importance of having well-defined, precautionary management systems for tuna fisheries, the types of harvest strategies employed, the current challenges associated with harvest strategies and the work IPNLF is doing to ensure that effective harvest strategies are defined to improve management for the one-by-one fisheries we work with.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HARVEST STRATEGIES IN TUNA FISHERIES

Today, it is widely recognised that managing fisheries with the sole aim of maximising catches is too risky as the ocean is a changing, and often-unpredictable environment, and the interactions between target fish stocks and the broader ecosystem are not fully understood. Given the importance of global tuna fisheries to countless coastal communities, it is critical that the management systems for tunas be precautionary to safeguard not only the resource but also the people that depend on it.

Across the world’s tuna fisheries, there is general agreement that precautionary management strategies should be applied. In practice, this means setting target levels of fishing, identifying limits to avoid population collapse and pre-agreeing on rules to ensure that fishing is kept at sustainable levels. This management system, also known as a harvest strategy, has been tried and tested and is a proven method for maintaining, and rebuilding fisheries. 

By having a harvest strategy in place, fishery managers can act swiftly and efficiently within a pre-agreed framework to ensure that tuna harvests do not exceed acceptable limits. This safeguards the sustainability of the resource and the consistent supply of fish to communities and markets. In the case of tuna, which are classified as highly migratory species, management occurs through regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). However, these bodies have been criticised for slow, or inadequate, responses to ending overfishing, in large part due to the consensus-based decision making procedures and the politicised nature of negotiations. Despite these criticisms, RFMOs play a vital role in tuna fisheries management and critical for ensuring progress is made on defining and implementing harvest strategies. 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Some of the key issues that need to be addressed include: 

  • Robust harvest strategies take time to develop (several years), and require significant investment in the scientific process
  • Bridging the (currently large) gap between technical experts and fisheries managers on what instruments and measures to use when implementing harvest strategies
  • Harvest strategies must be adopted, often by consensus, at the RFMO level before they can be effectively implemented
  • Some ecolabels (e.g. Marine Stewardship Council) require harvest strategies to be in place in order to maintain certification, but many RFMOs are not on track or have not fully bought into this approach
  • Small-scale fisheries lack the resources and political leverage to get harvest strategies adopted at RFMOs
  • The concerns and/or interests of small-scale fisheries are not always represented in harvest strategies

WHAT IS IPNLF DOING TO IMPROVE THINGS?

The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) works to develop solutions and drive management improvements in one-by-one (pole-and-line, handline, troll) tuna fisheries in order to enhance the wellbeing of coastal fisheries, and the people and seas connected to them. Recognising challenges faced by one-by-one tuna fisheries, and the importance of harvest strategies, IPNLF is working in the following areas:

1 - RAISE THE PROFILE

IPNLF acts as a voice and champion for the one-by-one sector to markets and fisheries managers. Our work includes promoting responsible fisheries management, including harvest strategies, throughout the supply chain, and using the collective voice of IPNLF Members to amplify calls for improved management.

2 - IMPROVED INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT

Momentum is growing at the RFMOs towards implementation of harvest strategies.  IPNLF and our Members have invested significant resources to assist in the development and adoption of harvest strategies at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), including the hosting of workshops and supporting technical experts to work directly with governments.  IPNLF has also worked with our Members and other NGOs to push for the adoption of harvest strategies in the Atlantic Ocean (at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas – ICCAT) as well as Pacific Ocean (at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission – WCPFC). 

3 - ENHANCING DOMESTIC MANAGEMENT

IPNLF has co-sponsored workshops in Indonesia to develop national harvest strategies for tunas within Indonesia’s waters and ensuring that these are harmonised with regional initiatives at WCPFC. IPNLF works closely with the Asosiasi Perikanan Pole and Line dan Hand Line Indonesia (AP2HI), the industry association representing one-by-one fisheries in Indonesia, to ensure best-practice domestic management measures are in place and enforced.

4 - COMMUNICATING RESULTS

IPNLF employs a variety of platforms to promote on-going research, technical reports, and the good work of our Members. IPNLF uses traditional and social media tools to spread news on the latest developments to a global audience.

IPNLF HARVEST STRATEGY RESOURCES

Harvest Strategy & Reference Points

This document should be cited as: IPNLF, 2016, Harvest Strategy and Reference Points, IPNLF Issue Brief

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