Step 8: Harvest Control Rules

To make science-based fishery management decisions, we need Harvest Control Rules (HCRs), which are simply rules that tell managers what to do when performance indicators are found to be near the targets, below the targets, near the limits, or under the limits. HCRs are not the same as specific “management measures” or “fishery regulations” that dictate specific changes in fishery management. Instead, they are simple rules that say “if we find that our fishery is in X condition, we will do Y.” For example, if assessments reveal that the performance indicators selected for your fishery are all falling short of their target reference points (indicating that the fishery is over-exploited, and/ or that the fishery is unsustainable), one potential HCR would be simply to “reduce fishing mortality” in an effort to restore depleted stocks. The HCR does not say (for example) “we will reduce fishing mortality by reducing quotas,” or “by closing spawning grounds to fishing,” or “by changing gears,” or “by closing the fishery.” Each of these is an example of a specific management measure that stakeholders might select to achieve the change indicated by the HCR. We will discuss the selection of management measures, based on interpretation of the results of our assessments that let us compare our performance indicators to our reference points, in later steps (Steps 10 and 11).

It is important for stakeholders and managers to agree on the suite of HCRs in a safe and neutral setting before any management decisions need to be made. This can help improve compliance by ensuring management responses are objective, consistent, transparent, and appropriate. Therefore, it is important to identify all foreseeable possible scenarios that could occur in the fishery and create corresponding HCRs for each scenario.



HCR Examples

Here are some example Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) for three Performance Indicators (PIs).

Harvest Control Rule (HCR) Examples

Harvest Control Rules should be developed for each possible scenario of performance Indicator - Reference Point relationships.  For step-by-step guidance on defining appropriate HCRs for your fishery, see the Guidance document, and associated Excel worksheets, for choosing PIs, identifying RPs, and defining HCRs in the downloadable workbook, and linked to on this page. See Step 10 for guidance on interpretation.