Background (CI7)

Background (short)

The indicators of Good Environmental Status of Commercially Exploited fish are quantitative proxies to describe the status of a specific fish stock (i.e. the fish population from which catches are taken in a given fishery) as well as the anthropogenic pressure imposed on it through fishing activities. Those indicators are regularly used in fisheries management to assess the sustainability of fisheries, as well as the performance of management measures (Miethe et al., 2016), by monitoring how far the indicator is from previously agreed targets (i.e. reference points).

The assessment of the size and state of exploited fish stocks is one of the pillars of fisheries management. Generally, stock status is determined by estimating both current levels of fishing mortality and spawning-stock biomass (see EO3CI7), and comparing these with reference points, which are typically associated with maximum sustainable yield (MSY - Brooks et al., 2010).

The GFCM provides regular reports on main indicators of relevance for fisheries management, and in 2016 has launched its flagship publication “The state of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries – SoMFi”http://www.fao.org/gfcm/publications/en/ that includes a comprehensive analysis of salient issues of relevance in the area. The assessment on the status of commercially exploited fish, included in relation to the indicator of fishing mortality (GES indicator EO3CI9), emanates from the information published in SoMFi 2016 and anticipates some of the findings that will be presented in detail in SoMFi 2018.

Background (extended)

The GFCM, as the responsible Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) in the Mediterranean and Black Sea provides regular reports on main indicators of relevance for fisheries management, and in 2016 has launched its flagship publication “The state of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries – SoMFi”http://www.fao.org/gfcm/publications/en/  that includes a comprehensive analysis of salient issues of relevance in the area. The assessment on the status of commercially exploited fish, included in relation to the indicator of fishing mortality included below (GES indicator EO3CI9), emanates from the information published in SoMFi 2016 and anticipates some of the findings that will be presented in detail in SoMFi 2018.

Mediterranean countries, within the context of the GFCM, have recently updated and adopted new specific binding recommendations related to the mandatory requirements for data collection and submission, underpinned by the launch of the GFCM Data Collection Reference Framework (DCRF – GFCM, 2017a). The DCRF is the first GFCM comprehensive framework for the collection and submission of fisheries-related data, as requested through GFCM recommendations in place and necessary for relevant GFCM subsidiary bodies to formulate advice in accordance with their mandate. It encompasses all the necessary indications for the collection of fisheries data (i.e. global figure of national fisheries, catch; incidental catch of vulnerable species; fleet; effort; socio-economics; biological information) by GFCM members in a standardized way, in order to provide the GFCM with the minimum set of data needed to support fisheries management decision-making processes. In addition, the GFCM works through its permanent Working Groups on Stock Assessment (WGSAs) - on demersal and small pelagic fish species - where fisheries scientists perform their analysis and provide the best scientific advice to better manage fisheries and fish stocks. Several analytical methods, based on the population dynamics of different stocks of demersal and small pelagic species, have been applied within the GFCM-WGSAs. In order for the advice on the status of stocks to be reliable, the data and information used in the analysis should be timely available and accurate. Data for the assessment of stocks are collected through stock assessment forms (SAFs), which also contain information on reference points and the outcomes of the assessment (e.g. fishing mortality, exploitation rate, spawning stock biomass, recruitment etc.).

Following the decision of the GFCM to work on indicators of Good Environmental Status (GES) of Mediterranean and Black Sea species, habitats and ecosystems, so further embracing the FAO Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) and within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with UNEP-MAP, a number of activities have been undertaken in the framework of the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (SAC) in recent years. In 2014, the first outputs of the MedSuit project (A Mediterranean Cooperation for the Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Resources - funded by the Italian Ministry of Environment) were presented to the sixteenth session of the SAC (GFCM, 2014a) together with a first proposal of indicators and targets for the assessment of the status of stocks, developed in collaboration with and within the framework of the UNEP-MAP Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) Process, in particular, its Ecological Objective 3 (Harvest of commercially exploited fish and shellfish). Indicators and targets were further discussed during the “First MedSuit Regional Workshop on indicators and targets to ensure GES of commercially exploited marine populations” (GFCM, 2014b), endorsed by the seventeenth session of the SAC (GFCM, 2015), and were finally incorporated in the GFCM Data Collection Reference Framework (DCRF) adopted by the GFCM (GFCM, 2017a).

The indicators of Good Environmental Status of Commercially Exploited fish are quantitative proxies to describe the status of a specific fish stock (i.e. the fish population from which catches are taken in a given fishery) as well as the anthropogenic pressure imposed on it through fishing activities. Those indicators are regularly used in fisheries management to assess the sustainability of fisheries, as well as the performance of management measures (Miethe et al., 2016), by monitoring how far the indicator is from previously agreed targets (i.e. reference points).

Spawning stock biomass is the combined weight of all individuals in a fish stock that are capable of reproducing. It reflects the reproductive stock capacity (GFCM, 2017b). Generally, stock status is determined by estimating both current levels of fishing mortality (see also EO3CI9) and spawning-stock biomass and comparing these with reference points, which are typically associated with MSY (Brooks et al., 2010).

The assessment of the size and state of exploited fish stocks is one of the pillars of fisheries management. The most recent studies assessing the status of fisheries in the world show an important decline in the status of stocks. Also, some ecosystems show clear signals of stress due to anthropogenic pressure, and others are threatened to be pushed to a point of no return if the marine resources will continue to be exploited at current levels (Tsikliras et al., 2015).