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The Queensland spanner crab Ranina ranina is the target of a relatively data-poor, low-value fishery that has been managed for the last decade by using total allowable catches (TACs) in an individual transferable quota system. Despite the fact that this management system is usually applied to data-rich fisheries, it has been successfully used on this data-poor fishery. The key factor has been the use of harvest strategies that consisted only of simple decision rules that were appropriate given the size of the fishery and knowledge of the resource. These strategies were tested in a management strategy evaluation framework; however, it was not traditional in that (1) the operating model (or “true” resource to be managed) was not conditioned to data but rather was set to parameter ranges seen as appropriate for the resource and (2) the TAC was not set by using a stock assessment model, so the magnitude of the stock biomass was unknown. The important test was whether one could develop harvest strategies that were robust to this large uncertainty in knowledge by using only commercial catch rates. The management system had to be adaptive over time as more was learned about the biology of the species and how the harvest strategies affected the management of the fishery. This meant that the TAC was almost always set using the harvest strategies, but modifications to the decision rules were made on several occasions as more was learned about the fishery. The transparency and simplicity of the rules mean that the industry was empowered to make significant contributions to fine tuning the harvest strategies. As a result, the process does not rely solely on scientific advances but on the pooled knowledge of scientists, industry, and managers in a cooperative environment.
Classical approaches to fisheries stock assessment rely on methods that are not conducive to managing data-poor stocks. Moreover, many nearshore rocky reef species exhibit spatial variation in harvest pressure and demographic rates, further limiting traditional stock assessment approaches. Novel management strategies to overcome data limitations and account for spatial variability are needed. With the ever-increasing implementation of no-take marine protected areas (MPAs), there is great potential for improving decision making in management through comparisons of fished populations with populations in MPAs at spatially explicit scales. We developed a management strategy that uses a combination of data-based indicators sampled inside and outside of MPAs as well as model-based reference points for data-poor, sedentary nearshore species. We performed a management strategy evaluation of this MPA-based decision tree model for a hypothetical population of grass rockfish Sebastes rastrelliger in California. We introduced process, observation, and model uncertainty in numerous scenarios and compared these scenarios with the precautionary approach currently used to manage data-poor species. Our model consistently improved total catches while maintaining the biomass and spawning potential ratio at levels well within acceptable thresholds of management. We suggest further exploration of this MPA-based management approach, and we outline a collaborative research program in the California Channel Islands that may well be suited for testing an experimental management procedure.
The hook-and-line fishery for inshore rockfishes Sebastes spp. in British Columbia is diverse, with participants in directed commercial, recreational, and Aboriginal fisheries, as well as other incidental fisheries coastwide. Rockfish species targeted in this fishery are yelloweye rockfish S. ruberrimus and quillback rockfish S. maliger. Expansion of the fishery outpaced management's effort controls, and catch quotas were implemented in the early 1990s. Conservation concerns largely based on life history traits resulted in restrictions to the directed fishery, but other fisheries remained unmanaged. A growing mismatch between the demands of fishery management and the difficulties of inshore rockfish stock assessment led to the development of a conservation strategy in 2001. The strategy included the following four components: comprehensive catch monitoring; dramatically reduced fishing mortality; extensive fishery closed areas; and improved stock assessment and monitoring. Targets were met in 2002 by reducing the fishing mortality rate by 75% in the protected waters east of Vancouver Island (inside area) and by 50% in the remaining open-coast waters (outside area). Research survey programs were reinstated by the provision of funds in 2003. An intricate catch accounting and monitoring proposal from industry set the rules in a pilot groundfish licensing integration program launched in 2006. Progress continues to be made on this difficult task. Areas closed to all fishing were implemented in 30% of the rockfish habitats throughout the inside area and in 20% of the outside area in 2007. Key to the development of the strategy was the consultation process. Consensus-based decision making within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the organization and commitment of industry participants contributed to this success. Open communication and respectful conduct brought participants to the table and kept them engaged. Without the consultation process and the benefits from this exchange, the conservation strategy would not have been possible.
The New Zealand fishing industry has adopted a strategy of using fishers to collect biological sampling data from their fisheries, usually on a voluntary basis. This approach can be adopted for data-poor fisheries to obtain data that would otherwise not be available. This article describes a wide range of such programs implemented in fisheries spanning a period of 15 years. This article also reveals the designs employed, how these data have been used in stock assessment and fisheries management situations, and some of the problems encountered in administering these programs. I conclude that while these programs need supervision and support in order to succeed, the benefits that can accrue are considerable. These benefits include a dynamic sampling design that should ensure good representation of the fishery and the involvement of fishers in collecting the data used to manage their fishery.
The habitat needs of nearshore juvenile rockfish Sebastes spp. have rarely been studied but are an essential component of habitat identification for management. We investigated the relationships between habitat type, species composition, and growth of juvenile rockfish after settlement into nearshore reefs and estuaries in central Oregon. We identify and prioritize essential fish habitat (EFH) for blue rockfish S. mystinus and black rockfish S. melanops caught by minnow traps and by scuba divers with hand nets. Species were confirmed through genetic analysis. Our nearshore samples were dominated by blue rockfish, while estuary samples contained almost exclusively black rockfish. Settlement patterns suggest that black rockfish had a strong preference for anthropogenic habitat (docks, pilings, jetties) within the Yaquina Bay estuary. Growth was not significantly different among habitats or sampling years for either black rockfish or blue rockfish. We identify estuaries as EFH for black rockfish juveniles along the central Oregon coast and confirm nearshore reef areas as EFH for blue rockfish juveniles. Small sample sizes of juvenile yellowtail rockfish S. flavidus and widow rockfish S. entomelas suggest that estuaries are also important for these species.
Giant grenadiers Albatrossia pectoralis are caught as bycatch in deep-sea commercial fisheries in relatively large numbers. The population appears to be stable, although there is no directed fishery, catch limits, or reporting requirements. The purpose of our study was to describe and quantify the reproductive life history characteristics and natural mortality of female giant grenadiers. During the summers of 2004 and 2006, a total of 338 specimens were collected from the Gulf of Alaska. Every phase of reproductive development was found, suggesting a protracted annual spawning season. An ovarian wall thickness technique was used to successfully place 31% (n = 24) of the fish with an unknown maturity status into a known category. Female age at 50% maturity was 22.9 years, and preanal fin length at 50% maturity was 26 cm. Total fecundity ranged from 35,000 to 231,000 oocytes (mean = 106,761), with a mean mature oocyte diameter of 1.26 mm. We developed a new technique for preparing otoliths for age determination by grinding off the distal surface to elucidate the growth zones; age ranged from 14 to 58 years. Estimates of natural female mortality ranged from 0.052 to 0.079 and estimates of total female mortality from 0.061 to 0.149. This life history information will be essential for future management of giant grenadier populations in the North Pacific Ocean.
We conducted hydroacoustic, gill-net, and push trawl surveys to quantify changes in habitat-specific fish size and biomass in shallow (<2-m) estuarine waters of Barataria Bay, Louisiana, in order to evaluate essential fish habitat. Surveys were conducted monthly between June 2003 and May 2004 among regions located along a north–south salinity gradient. The fish length distributions derived from the gill-net and push trawl catches showed moderate concordance with the measured target strength distributions, indicating that our integrated approach more effectively characterized the fish community than using only a single gear type would have. Acoustic estimates showed that biomass was highest during fall (mean ± SE; 2.30 ± 0.27 g/m3) and next highest in spring (1.49 ± 0.20 g/m3), with relatively low biomass during summer (0.70 ± 0.14 g/m3) and winter (0.86 ± 0.14 g/m3); pelagic fish biomass from nets was low during winter (53.9 ± 14.9 grams per unit effort [gpue]) but relatively high in fall (846.1 ± 207.2 gpue), spring (774.3 ± 175.5 gpue), and summer (620.3 ± 140.7 gpue). Oyster habitat supported a greater biomass of pelagic fish (acoustic survey: 1.54 ± 0.15 g/m3; gill-net survey: 467.3 ± 81.0 gpue) than soft-bottom habitat (acoustic: 0.94 ± 0.11 g/m3; gill-net: 315.2 ± 54.8 gpue). Among regions, the greatest biomass of pelagic fish was observed at polyhaline stations (acoustic: 1.78 ± 0.19 g/m3; gill-net: 654.3 ± 136.5 gpue), followed by mesohaline (acoustic: 1.18 ± 0.15 g/m3; gill-net: 378.5 ± 79.1 gpue) and oligohaline stations (acoustic: 0.82 ± 0.12 g/m3; gill-net: 228.3 ± 50.2 gpue). Gill-net biomass was linearly related to the acoustic biomass estimates of small pelagic fish. The complementary, multigear approach proved to be useful in evaluating habitat use and may be particularly helpful in identifying and monitoring ecosystem reference points to evaluate change and in standardizing ecosystem-based assessment approaches.
The availability of up-to-date information for managing marine resources is limited worldwide. In California, lack of data is hindering the execution and evaluation of two recent state laws, the Marine Life Management Act and the Marine Life Protection Act. The inability to meet the objectives of these laws is particularly acute for large cryptic benthic species (e.g., crabs, lobster, and prawns) that support valuable trap fisheries. Such species are not readily quantified by conventional methods and thus are not usually included in existing monitoring efforts. We explored the integration of data collection with ongoing commercial crab fishing activities to address this information gap and developed sampling regimes that provided accurate estimates of at-sea catches that could show the status of crab populations. Crab catches sampled in port represented only a subset of the catch at sea owing to selective harvesting of the catch (i.e., sorting) and thus would be a poor estimator of wild stocks. We developed a framework for addressing data accuracy and validity, data management and sharing, incentives, compensation, and long-term funding. Our findings suggest that data collection programs in which fishermen, managers, and scientists collaboratively design, collect, and analyze data are well suited for trap fisheries, particularly those that include multiple species or practice high rates of selectivity. The resulting recommendations for ensuring that the process is transparent and that the data are accurate and integrated into management include having (1) well-defined goals and appropriate, scientifically sound data collection methods, (2) hands-on training for participants, (3) validation of the collected data, (4) well-defined procedures for handling confidential data, (5) an adequate funding source, and (6) timely and consistent