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FP6

COMMIT Report Summary

Project ID: 502289
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - COMMIT (Creation of Multinatiannual Management Plans for Commitment)

The COMMIT project has made a unique contribution to fisheries management in the European Union (EU) in its role in developing multi-annual management plans that explicitly take into account uncertainty about stock dynamics and the role of compliance and commitment to management regulations.

A fundamental aspect of fisheries management is to link the level of utilisation of a resource to the level of uncertainty about the system (i.e. a positive relationship between information and utilisation, so that the value of information to the fishery is positive). In this way, actions that reduce uncertainty (e.g. compliance or increased scientific knowledge) will be rewarded with increased economic return. This will help managers to move away from short-term reactive management to more stable multi-annual management.

This contrasts with the conventional approach in which, in the face of the lack of information, the tendency has been not to limit harvest levels until there is sufficient information to indicate the need for such limits where information has a negative value to the fishery in the short term.

The method applied in this project requires management options to be related to management outcomes and specifically to determine how knowledge about the system and our ability to influence inputs affect outcomes such as yield per stock and sustainability.

To do this requires a rigorous treatment of uncertainty and in this project Bayesian belief networks (BBNs) have been used to design experimental treatments, run within the Fisheries libraries in R (FLR) simulation framework. In this way it has been possible to integrate the probabilities of alternative uncertain outcomes (across disciplines: biological, social and economic) and to identify what elements the multi-annual management plans should contain if they are to be robust to uncertainty about system dynamics.

Three key case studies were considered representing range of fisheries in complexity and diversity of interests: North Sea slatfish (sole and plaice), Northern hake and Baltic salmon. For each case study, BBNs have been formulated to synthesis the results for each case study.

In the North Sea flatfish case study, special attention was given to the effects of effort reductions on catchability through optimisation behaviour of fishermen. The newly developed bio-economic model for the flat fish fishery in the North Sea had a direct impact on the management process, through the STECF meetings including stakeholder feedback and advice on the flatfish multi-annual management plan in 2006 and 2007. The contradiction in the results from the COMMIT / EFIMAS model with the traditionally used EIAA model raised the issue of uncertainty in the economic outcomes of the models. Initially, this highlighted the uncertainty in the model outcomes, but using the methodology developed in COMMIT, this will lead to more robust management options in the mid- and long-term.

For Northern hake, the recovery plan (a multi-annual management plan) was tested within a management strategy evaluation framework. The uncertainties in the biological factors (that is the recruitment dynamics, growth, assumptions and natural mortality, cannibalism) were evaluated. However, the proposed multi-annual management plans and Harvest control rule (HCR) were found to be robust to alternative hypotheses as to these uncertainties associated in these biological factors.

The methodology developed in COMMIT has also been directly applied to the current advice of ICES in terms of the multi-annual management of Baltic salmon. Baltic salmon is the only ICES stock, for which the Bayesian approach provides the methodological background. Both the operational aims of the management, as well as the state of the stocks is given in probabilities and thereafter, it is the role of the managers to conclude, what the uncertainties mean from the management point of view.

The simulation models for the case studies are implemented within the generic FLR software framework. The framework is available at http://flrproject.org and as well as contributing to the core framework (FLCore), COMMIT has also contributed to the development of the Bayesian assessment package (FLBayes), as well as more recently the development of the economic component of the bio-economic operating model (FLEcon).

Furthermore, an interactive COMMIT website was set up at http://Commitfish.info. It allowed participants in the project to undertake project work and to share documents, data and code.

In addition, progress has been made with alternative methods to condition the models on data, the methodology associated with studies on commitment (and compliance modelling) and studies on negotiation with stakeholders. A chapter on management procedures was published as a chapter in a book (in partnership with the EFIMAS project). This chapter is an extensive review of management procedures, including partial cataloguing of recent studies reviewing management procedures. The review provides a detailed account of what management procedures are, including a summary of their historical development. This is important as it indicates the context of their use by scientists and the utility of the approach.

The uptake of the outputs by sectors and European Commission (EC) management bodies (such as the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF)) for immediate policy advice for the long-term management of fish stocks has been considerable. Both the North Sea flatfish and Northern hake case studies have contributed significantly to STECF sub-group meetings during 2006 - 2007, both of which considered a detailed analysis of multi-annual management plans for these stocks.

Related information

Contact

Laurence Thomas KELL, (Fisheries Systems Modeller)
Tel.: +44-1502524257
Fax: +44-1502524569
E-mail
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