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Celtic Sea Mixed Fisheries: Cutting Edge Work on Management Plan
A meeting in Dublin recently attended by the NFFO saw progress on a project at the cutting edge of fisheries/science collaboration. The Damara Project aims to provide fisheries stakeholders with a tool that will enable them to test various management options before they are adopted. This is particularly important in the complex and mixed fisheries like those in the Celtic Sea, where a management decision for one species, or fleet, can have consequences for another part of the fishery. The aim is to provide those in the fishery with a better understanding of the consequences of various potential management measures. Decisions made with the aid of this support tool will allow a better awarenesses of the advantages and disadvantages, and the necessary trade-offs to be made.
What is particularly novel about this project is that it puts fisheries stakeholders in the driving seat right from the outset – in defining the kind of scientific underpinning such decisions will require. The project builds on work already undertaken by the North West Waters Advisory Council in preparing objectives for the mixed fisheries in ICES areas VIIf and g of the Celtic Sea.
The Dublin meeting:
- Agreed the project’s core principles
- Agreed the key questions that it would address
- Discussed the kind of technical modelling that it would require
- Agreed a timetable for the project to work to.
The project will evolve through an iterative process. A prototype will be developed that will then be discussed and tested, with adjustments where there are shortcomings. The problems associated with single species management plans (famously, the discredited EU Cod Management Plan) are well known and there is an intense search for ways to put management plans for demersal stocks on a mixed fishery basis. The Damara project, if successful will offer a practical tool to allow fisheries stakeholders to define the shape of their own plan. Although the focus is on the Celtic Sea, the approach and the model will potentially be of relevance to the development of long term management plans for many other fisheries.
The Damara project will not be without its challenges. These include the impact of the EU landings obligation which is likely to alter fishing behaviours and render assumptions based on past patterns redundant. Equally, there are important data deficiencies to be addressed. Nevertheless, providing a baseline understanding of the current situation will inform future management options and put stakeholders in a much stronger position than they would otherwise be.
At present fisheries administrators in the member states are preoccupied with developing discard plans. But it is intended to keep relevant member states fully advised about the project as it develops and at an appropriate juncture to invite their involvement in discussions. The project is strongly predicated on a regionalseas approach to fisheries management and bottom-up initiatives.
The modellers involved in the project will now prepare the first version of their decision support tool, which will be the subject of scrutiny and discussion at the next meeting, in October.