Wild Capture Fisheries

WIld Capure Fisheries – National ESD Reporting Framework


Australian fisheries management agencies have recently completed an ambitious project to develop a national reporting framework to demonstrate how well they are meeting the objectives of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

What are we doing?

The first phase of this process was to develop an effective reporting framework for ESD and fisheries (FRDC project 2000/145). This project is now complete for wild capture fisheries (see how to guide for details). The second phase of the FRDC project (FRDC2002/086) sought to develop the tools to turn the reporting framework into an assessment framework and is now also complete.

These projects were originally coordinated by the then, Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (SCFA), which was composed of the directors of all Australian fisheries management agencies. This group now forms part of the Marine and Coastal Committee of the Natural Resources Management Standing Committee. Furthermore these projects received advice and support by a ‘Reference Group’ consisting of representatives from:

  • Department of Environment and Heritage;
  • the fishing industry;
  • non-government organizations; and
  • other relevant stakeholders.
Why we are doing it!

Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) is a dynamic concept that recognises the need to integrate the short and long-term economic, social and environmental aspects of activities and is now enshrined in most fisheries legislation in Australia.

The need to develop a comprehensive and practical reporting system for ESD has increased substantially in recent years, to meet both a variety of government requirements and community expectations.

Strong support to develop such an effective and practical system was obtained from all stakeholder groups at the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation-funded workshop on ESD and fisheries held in March 2000.

How we are doing it (ESD Reporting)

Each reporting unit is a fishery, as defined by the management agency. The framework is designed to document a fishery’s contribution to ESD – where ESD is defined as:

“Using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.”

ESD has been divided into eight major components relevant to fisheries, which can be grouped in three categories:

Contributions of the fishery to ecological wellbeing

  •       Retained species
  •       Non-retained species
  •       General Ecosystem

Contributions of the fishery to human wellbeing

  •       Indigenous wellbeing
  •       Local and regional wellbeing
  •       National social and economic wellbeing

Ability to Achieve

  • Governance
  • Impact of the environment on the fishery

These eight components are further sub-divided into more specific sub-components, using a ‘component tree’ structure. An example of this is shown below and the full set of generic component trees are provided in a downloadable form.

The generic component trees associated with the eight components can be tailored to suit the particular circumstances of each fishery to which ESD reporting is applied, expanding some sub-components and collapsing or removing others.

Figure 1 An example of one of the eight generic component trees used in the ESD reporting framework

For each of the lowest level of sub-components, a risk assessment (pdf) is then carried out, in order to determine the appropriate level of management response and monitoring required, and what complexity of report needs to be written.

The reporting method differs from ‘top-down’ fisheries reporting approaches, where a set of indicators and performance measures is imposed on all fisheries without regard to their individual circumstances.

What we have done so far?

A comprehensive How To Guide (pdf) has now been completed for reporting on ESD for Wild Capture fisheries (pdf). This was based upon a series of case studies completed in most jurisdictions and covering a wide variety of fisheries. The information gathered in thes case studies has also been published in a Technical Support Summary (pdf).

The work on ESD assessment has concentrated on developing an assessment manual that summarises what is currently considered acceptable &/or Best Practice performance for the main types of species and fisheries operating in Australia. The ESD Assessment Manual for Wild Capture Fisheries was completed in October 2003. A Social Assessment Handbook was also completed and released in July 2005.

What we hope to achieve

We intend that this national reporting framework will be progressively applied to all Australian fisheries and become an integral part of fisheries management. Although the primary goal is to assist and improve fisheries management, the reporting framework is also intended to address an increasing number of environmental and other requirements imposed by legislation, certification schemes, and consumer and community demands.

With a comprehensive, national approach, individual fisheries should be well placed to show how they are performing against ESD objectives.

Further details can be found on the ESD reporting framework project elsewhere on the web site, where each of the manuals and guides are located.

The implications of ESD and its implementation

Within fisheries management, social and economic factors have always been included as part of the decision-making process. What is needed is a more formal, transparent and structured way of considering these issues – which Ecologically Sustainable Development provides.

The ESD process will therefore have implications for the level of community input and understanding, because it will reveal the machinery of management. Previously, many aspects of fisheries and their management have often been assessed in an implicit fashion, but now they will be looked at explicitly.

In addition to understanding the major environmental issues for each fishery – including those associated with the target species and the wider ecosystem that the fishery operates within – fisheries managers need sensible assessments of the economic and the social costs, contributions and benefits which flow from the fishing activities associated with each fishery.

These assessments will not necessarily drive the fisheries management decisions that have to be made, but at least by understanding their implications, fisheries managers can determine the best way of managing an issue. If catch or effort levels have to be reduced within a fishery, there are often a number of different ways of achieving this – one way may produce good social benefits, whilst another may produce better economic benefits.

For the same biological outcome, fisheries managers should be trying to find the approach that provides the most benefits whilst increasing the transparency as to how decisions are being made. Not all stakeholders may agree with the final decision, but at least they can see on what basis it was made.

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