Indicators to support an ecosystem approach to fisheries


Simon Jennings, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
Tel.: +44 (0) 1502 524363
Fax: +44 (0) 1502 513865


Indicators are needed to support the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF), by providing information on the state of the ecosystem, the extent and intensity of effort or mortality and the progress of management in relation to objectives. Here, I review recent work on the development, selection and application of indicators and consider how indicators might support an EAF. Indicators should guide the management of fishing activities that have led to, or are most likely to lead to, unsustainable impacts on ecosystem components or attributes. The numbers and types of indicators used to support an EAF will vary among management regions, depending on resources available for monitoring and enforcement, and actual and potential fishing impacts. State indicators provide feedback on the state of ecosystem components or attributes and the extent to which management objectives, which usually relate to state, are met. State can only be managed if the relationships with fishing (pressure) and management (response) are known. Predicting such relationships is fundamental to developing a management system that supports the achievement of objectives. In a management framework supported by pressure, state and response indicators, the relationship between the value of an indicator and a target or limit reference point, reference trajectory or direction provides guidance on the management action to take. Values of pressure, state and response indicators may be affected by measurement, process, model and estimation error and thus different indicators, and the same indicators measured at different scales and in different ways, will detect true trends on different timescales. Managers can use several methods to estimate the effects of error on the probability of detecting true trends and/or to account for error when setting reference points, trajectories and directions. Given the high noise to signal ratio in many state indicators, pressure and response indicators would often guide short-term management decision making more effectively, with state indicators providing longer-term policy-focused feedback on the effects of management action.