Introduction

Step 5: Prioritization

After vulnerability scores have been determined in Step 3, and a preliminary stock status assessment has been conducted in Step 4, the fifth step of the FISHE process combines this information to first organize species by vulnerability and status levels (e.g., low vulnerability/high status; medium vulnerability/medium status; etc.), and then produce management guidance for each combination. An example of this approach is given in the tables below.

Example Organization Matrix for single species fishery

Table1a. Stocks caught by the fishery are first organized into the 9 cells of the table based on their vulnerability levels (from Step 3) and depletion/ health statuses (from Step 4).

 

Example Prioritization Matrix for single species fisheries

Table 2a. Once species have been organized by vulnerability and depletion, managers, scientists, and fishers can work together to agree on an appropriate prioritization scheme – i.e. which cells should be considered a high priority for further assessment and potentially immediate precautionary management, which are low priority, and can continue to be fished as they have been without additional examination or management action in the immediate term, and which fall in the middle of this spectrum. 

Management guidance can also be developed for each cell or prioritization class at this time. Conversations with local fishery stakeholders and managers to determine correct management guidance for each cell/basket is recommended. Management guidance will vary depending on the value of the stock(s) for fishing and for other uses (e.g., tourism, recreational fishing or ecological role), risk tolerance and special status (i.e., threatened or endangered species).

Using the vulnerability scores from Step 3 and the status deteriminations from Step 4, fill out the tables in Step 5 of your workbook to help organize and then prioritize your target species for further assessment and precautionary management.

Methods

Prioritization in Multi-Species Fisheries

For multispecies fisheries, the organization and prioritization process can form the basis for the creation of species management “baskets,” or “tiers,” which is a management strategy that involves applying aggregate harvest controls for categories of stocks. In this approach, species are first organized into the 9 cells of the Table, and then managers, scientists, and stakeholders work together to determine what the appropriate management baskets should be based on: 1) vulnerability and depletion (i.e. location in the table); 2) how the species are caught (i.e. are they caught together in the same gear?); 3) stakeholder risk tolerance (i.e. how much risk of serial depletion are you willing to tolerate?); and 4) commercial value (see Table 1b, below). In other words, managers can choose to manage each cell of the table as its own basket, adjacent cells can be combined to generate fewer baskets that each have wider vulnerability and/or depletion ranges, or species can be “pulled out” of cells and managed on their own (potentially resulting in more than 9 baskets). Once species have been organized into management baskets, one or more representative species can be chosen from each basket for which further assessments can be conducted (FISHE Steps 6-9) and management measures defined (FISHE Steps 10 and 11). See Tables 1b and 2b below for an example of this approach.

Example Organization Matrix for multispecies fishery

Table 1b. In multispecies fisheries, where many species are caught at the same time with the same gear, there is an interim step here wherein species can be organized into “management baskets” based on their vulnerability and status levels (i.e. placement in the table), but also incorporating catch methods, risk tolerance, and value (commercial and social). The 9 cells of the table can be seen as a starting point for the creation of management baskets, and managers can decide to merge cells or split species out, as appropriate for their fishery. In the example in this table, managers have created eight baskets by grouping all species in the Low Vulnerability column (the parrotfish, black grouper, and silk snapper), grouping three species with Healthy Status, but Medium and High Vulnerability (a sardine, a mackerel, and the skipjack tuna), and separating out (creating baskets of one) all the species with Poor or Moderate Status, as well as the clams, which have Healthy Status and High Vulnerability (like the skipjack tuna), but are caught with a different gear/ method than the tuna. 

Once the baskets have been defined, at least one “representative species” must be selected from each basket for which additional assessments may be conducted, and management strategies defined, which will then be applied to all species in the basket. Representative species (for baskets containing more than one species) should be chosen based on: which species has the most data available; which species has the highest vulnerability score of the group (choose this species as the representative to be precautionary); which species has a vulnerability score that falls right in the middle of the others in the group; and which species has characteristics/ life cycle patterns and behaviors that might make it a good representative for the others in the group (e.g., perhaps one species uses multiple key habitats throughout its life). Finally, note that the criteria applied to choose the representative species may be different for each group.

When creating management baskets, managers must keep in mind the tradeoffs between having more baskets (and therefore more representative species to complete detailed assessments on) with fewer species in each, and having fewer baskets that each contain wider ranges of vulnerability, health status, or both. For instance, in the example above the basket that groups all species in the Low Vulnerability column contains two species that are very healthy, but one species – the silk snapper – that is less so. If managers are not careful when developing management tactics for this basket of fish the snapper may be at risk of serial depletion. Similarly, the basket that combines the sardine and mackerel (both Medium Vulnerability stocks) with the skipjack tuna (a High Vulnerability stock) puts the tuna at a greater risk. These risks can be minimized by emphasizing vulnerability when creating the management baskets, assessing and managing the most vulnerable species separately, or selecting the lowest health/ highest vulnerability species in each basket as the representative species, however this may not always be the species fishers and managers are most interested in from an economic perspective. 

Example Prioritization Matrix for multispecies fishery

Table 2b. Once species have been organized by vulnerability and depletion, and management baskets have been created, managers, scientists, and fishers can work together to agree on an appropriate prioritization scheme – i.e. which cells/ baskets should be considered a high priority for further assessment and potentially immediate precautionary management, which are low priority, and can continue to be fished as they have been without additional examination or management action in the immediate term, and which fall in the middle of this spectrum. 

Management guidance can also be developed for each cell, basket, or prioritization class at this time. Conversations with local fishery stakeholders and managers to determine correct management guidance for each cell/basket is recommended. Management guidance will vary depending on the value of the stock(s) for fishing and for other uses (e.g., tourism, recreational fishing or ecological role), risk tolerance and special status (i.e., threatened or endangered species).

Note that prioritizing and developing management guidance based on management baskets may result in different guidance for some species than would have been provided based on individual cells of the species organization matrix, depending on how baskets are created and which species are selected as representatives. For instance, in the example above the skipjack tuna and the silk snapper have both be assigned different guidance (”Potential for increased harvest”) than they would have been based on Table 2a, above.

Using the vulnerability scores from Step 3 and the depletion scores from Step 4, fill out the tables in Step 5 of your workbook to help organize and then prioritize your target species for further assessment and precautionary management.