Do people in data-limited fisheries work with EDF scientists/staff to enter the data?

Yes, and this can happen in a number of different ways. In many cases, people in data-limited fisheries work with EDF scientists to enter data and analyze them as part of the FISHE process. In other cases, the data are entered and analyzed by local scientists and fishery practitioners themselves. FISHE supports a participatory process that is initiated and run by local organizations to help achieve goals for priority fisheries. The process depends on the expertise and value judgements of fishermen, local experts, and local managers. In Belize, for example, Belizean scientists and managers worked directly with EDF scientists to analyze data and interpret the results of data limited assessments.

How do you approach fishing communities about using the FISHE tool and are they open to it?

We often do a presentation about the importance of management – period – and on how basing management on science can improve fishery outcomes, like jobs, profits, and food. Many fishermen already understand the importance of collecting data because that’s how they find fish – by noticing changes in the weather, sea state, water temperature etc. that they know affect the distribution and abundance of fish. In other words, they are used to the notion of using data (though they may not call the information they use “data”) to find fish, so it’s a small leap to the notion of using data to manage fish. Many fishermen have also noticed undesirable changes in their fisheries, such as decreases in the size of their catch, or of the individual fish in the catch, or having to go out further and stay out longer for the same amount of fish. They are often eager to learn about tools that can help them improve the health and performance of their fisheries. So far, we have observed a great deal of open-ness and eagerness to use FISHE.  FISHE is currently being implemented in fisheries located in Belize, Cuba, Mexico, Chile, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Indonesia.

How do you determine the accuracy of an assessment?

Using stakeholder-defined goals as a foundation, fishery performance indicators are chosen that can be evaluated easily using available data. Multiple performance indicators from multiple data streams are used to gain a more complete understanding of the fishery and to reduce the implications of uncertainty; corroboration between indicators can allow for a confident interpretation of fishery performance.

Real-time monitoring of the performance of the fishery in response to management measures provides additional confidence in the accuracy of an assessment. There are many ways to measure the accuracy of an assessment – e.g., simulation testing, comparing it to other assessments, etc. But the best way is to see how the fishery performs: if the assessment says that the stock is depleted and managers act on that information by reducing harvest rates, does the stock recover? If not, this means more information is needed, or more stringent management actions must be taken. This is why it’s critical that FISHE be implemented in an iterative, adaptive way.

What do I do if my fishery has NO data?

See this link.

Does data collection using fishing vessels (e.g. trawlers) during closed seasons constitute “Fisheries-Independent Data”?

Yes.  Monitoring the catch via sampling that’s independent of the fishery but that uses various fishing gears is another form of fishery independent data collection and widely used. The type of vessel doesn’t matter – fishing vessels, research vessels, and even recreational vessels have been used to collect fishery independent data. What’s important is that the vessels are not actively targeting particularly species but are instead sampling sites determined by a scientific sampling program.

Many of the examples used reference coral reef fisheries. Can FISHE be applied in other environments, for example muddy bottom or rocky reef fisheries?

Yes, FISHE can be applied in any environment.  Because coral reefs are particularly well-studied, FISHE references some ecosystem health thresholds (reference points) for the MPA density ratio method that apply only to coral reefs. However, many other marine environments have health thresholds, and the generalized target RP of 0.5 can be used for the MPA density ratio for most finfish stocks.

Will FISHE be translated into Spanish or any other languages?

Yes! The PSA (Step 4) has been translated into Spanish (find it in the Workbook), and we are working to translate other methods into Spanish as well. We are also aiming to translate the website interface into Spanish as soon as we can.

When we know nothing about a fishery but assume that target species are heavily overfished, what is our level of confidence that biomass will actually improve in the next, say, 5 years if we “do the right thing”?  Is it possible that a stock is so overfished that it won’t recover at all in the near future?

Recovery times depend generally on two things: 1) the species’ life history characteristics (e.g., its population growth rate), and 2) the conditions and threats it is exposed to during the “recovery period.” For example, there is strong evidence that heavily overfished target species in tropical, coral reef-based fisheries (especially predatory species like groupers and snappers) can recover within about 5 years if fishing ceases, based on the performance of no-take marine reserves in tropical regions. If fishing is allowed to continue on these species at reduced levels recovery times will be longer. Many colder-water species tend to have slower growth rates, and their populations may therefore take much longer to recover. Additionally, if you are wrong, and the target species were not heavily overfished in the first place, little recovery may be observed in response to reduced fishing mortality.

When both reserve and the outside of reserve is highly overfished, ratio will be 1 but ecosystem not healthy. How do you solve this problem when you don’t know how far your reserve is “away” from virgin biomass?

There really is no way to solve this problem. The use of no-take marine reserves as a proxy for unfished biomass in certain assessment methods assumes that the reserve is fully-functioning and well-enforced, and that it has been sited and designed appropriately, with representative habitat inside and outside of the no-take reserve. It also assumes that the reserve has been in place long enough for the population living inside the it to recover to un-fished status. If these assumptions do not apply to the reserves in your system, the MPA Density Ratio method and other methods that rely on MPAs in this way will not work for you. Other assessment methods that do not depend on these assumptions are more appropriate in this situation, such as length-based methods (catch curve, LBAR, SPR, LIME) or catch-based methods.

Do marine reserves also serve to replenish exploited stocks thus adding to the resiliency of those stocks? Is that accounted for in FISHE?

Marine reserves can sometimes replenish exploited stocks, at least to some degree, when they are large enough or parts of large marine reserve networks. Reserves can also add resilience to stocks, ecosystems and fisheries by protecting some biomass, protecting older, larger fish that tend to be more productive than smaller fish, protecting rare species that might otherwise be extirpated, and protecting genetic, biological, and habitat diversity as well as functional redundancy – all attributes of resilient ecosystems. FISHE accounts for the effects of marine reserves in two main ways: (1) some of the methods recommended in FISHE make use of data from marine reserves; and (2) to the extent that monitoring programs detect increases in biomass or average length resulting from the marine reserves, FISHE will indicate higher levels of allowable catch. In other words, if you have a well-designed, well-enforced, and sufficiently long-standing marine reserve in your system it will both provide better information to inform stock assessments, and it will improve the health of the assessed stock and system, thereby likely increasing the management options available to you.

Can the tool be used for non-fish marine resources such as queen conch?

Many of the methods identified within FISHE support assessment of fished targets that are not fish. It is always recommended to either have knowledge or work with local experts that know the biology of any targeted species, as this information is useful for identifying which methods might be most appropriate for the species of interest. It is especially important to work with experts to choose appropriate performance indicators and reference points for non-fish marine resources, as most of the common PIs and RPs in use around the world were developed for finfish, and invertebrates etc. have markedly different life histories and productivity levels. This means that the main difference in how these species should be addressed in FISHE is through different target and limit RPs at Step 7.

FISHE suggests that understanding the impacts of climate change on a system should be the first thing we do, so that all the other steps can be informed by this information. What do I do if I have already been working on other steps of FISHE, and my fishery already has some assessment and management systems in place? Do I have to toss everything and start from scratch?

Definitely not! We’ve presented the climate assessment step at the very beginning of FISHE because we wanted to make it clear that this information should be used to inform all fishery management decisions, however you can apply these methods and gain this understanding at any time in your management process. It may be necessary to review some of your management goals, and to start implementing some new monitoring and assessment systems, based on the results of your climate impact analyses, but any progress you have made towards sustainable management is also progress towards climate resilience. In other words, the work you have already done is undoubtedly still going to have been “worth it,” but it may be necessary to adjust your long-term expectations, and/or to begin to take other actions to ensure your system as a whole can be better off in a climate changed future.

This is another reason why it’s so important to implement FISHE in an adaptive and iterative way. Each time you move through the steps of FISHE you can improve your decision-making based on new and better information. This pertains to climate impact information as well! And the relationship also goes the other direction – the more you know about your fishery through application of any of the methods at other FISHE steps, and the stronger your system for participatory decision-making, the better positioned you will be to assess likely climate impacts and to decide what to do about them.