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Strengthening Assessment On Low Trophic Fisheries

GENERAL - New, detailed guidance on assessing sustainable stock levels and harvest strategies for low trophic level fisheries will be developed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) following an expert scientific Working Group s recommendations for changes to the MSC Fisheries Assessment Methodology (FAM).

The conclusions are the result of a year-long study by the Working Group, created in June 2009 by the MSC Board with the aim of improving understanding of global best practice for the sustainable management of low trophic level fisheries. |

A key aspect of the Working Group’s research was the use of ecosystem models from five different regions where understanding of ecosystem dynamics is well developed. These models were adapted to evaluate how different harvest strategies for low trophic fisheries would impact on target stocks and dependent predators. Also evaluated were the likely assessment performance of these fisheries against the FAM and the adequacy of current guidance for certifiers.

The results of the modelling work suggest that the guidance in the FAM on low trophic level species should be strengthened, especially in relation to identifying suitable target stock levels. In certain situations, for example, the results indicate that a precautionary target stock level, which minimises ecosystem impacts, should be as high as 75 per cent of virgin biomass and, for some species, possibly even higher.

Welcoming the results, Chris Ninnes, MSC Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Our current methodology already recognises the critical role that low trophic level species play in the ecosystem and the need for harvest levels that will maintain dependent species at acceptable levels. Currently low trophic fisheries are required to have in place conservative harvest strategies that leave higher levels of biomass in the ocean than would be typically seen.

“These results will allow the MSC to provide greater clarity on what levels of stock should be maintained in the ocean to constitute sustainable management of these important fisheries. This will in effect establish a default benchmark within the assessment process for low trophic level fisheries. I’m delighted that the MSC responded to the need for this ground-breaking research and was able to facilitate and fund this modelling work. I would like to personally thank the Working Group and the wider community of experts and engaged stakeholders who contributed to this study, which will have significant practical impact on the future assessment and management of these resources.”

The draft changes will be developed over the next six months (July to December 2010) and issued for public consultation before being formally adopted by the MSC Board and Technical Advisory Board. For more information or to become involved in the consultation, contact Dr Dan Hoggarth at dan.hoggarth@msc.org.  

the Fish Site Editor

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