The Nearshore Tropical Multispecies Reef Fishery: A Hypothetical Case Study

Imagine a hypothetical island nation: From its nearshore tropical waters to its lush interior jungle, this island is home to a rich variety of wildlife. The country’s climate, wildlife reserves, culture and warm people make it a vacation destination, supporting a booming tourism and ecotourism industry. The fishing industry is also a huge economic pillar of the island’s economy with local income heavily reliant on the export of marine resources.

While fishing is central to both the economy and culture of the island, there is serious concern about the loss of fish and a shifting mix of finfish species in its nearshore multispecies tropical reef fish fishery. Outside fishing pressure from nearby islands and other countries place additional and unaccounted-for stress on finfish populations. In addition to fishing, there is serious concern around the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as the recently observed movement of historically abundant and culturally important finfish to cooler waters outside of the national EEZ. Fishermen on the island are fishing harder and harder but catching less. Many now fish long hours and extra days to compensate for their losses. Due to lack of capacity and resources, the island’s fishery managers face challenges when monitoring catch along the numerous ports and landing sites, where multiple gears are used. This makes catch overages hard to track.

Over the years, the island has relied on data and management measures from surrounding islands, but this data has proved inconsistent for supporting science-based management of these important resources. Dedicated to assessing and sustainably managing the nearshore tropical multispecies reef fish fishery, the fishing community, government, tourism board and local NGOs have banded together to use the Framework for Integrated Stock and Habitat Evaluation (FISHE) to reform the management of this fishery.

The eleven-step FISHE process starts with projecting likely future fishery conditions, an opportunity to develop scenarios around the expected impacts of climate change. The results of this step guide stakeholder-driven goal setting, ecosystem health assessments, and prioritization of multispecies fish baskets for data collection and precautionary management based on vulnerability and assessments of whether the target species in each fish basket appears to be doing poorly or not. Click on Projecting Future Fishery Conditions in the left-hand panel to begin the case study and see how various stakeholders worked through the FISHE process.