A framework for more agile and sustainable crustacean fisheries in Asia

By Ming Sun, Stony Brook University, and Adityo Setiawan, Environmental Defense Fund

From warming ocean waters to increased acidification and rising sea levels, it’s no wonder that fish are on the move to find suitable habitat! Climate change is creating dramatic shifts in species’ distributions and affecting their productivity. Fisheries managers who try to ensure sustainable fishing efforts find their jobs more difficult as fish are changing how and where they live. Now more than ever, managing mobile fish stocks is even more of a challenge.

Fishery managers are turning to adaptive management approaches to meet the challenges of an ever more dynamic ocean. Adaptive fisheries management equates to flexible, science-based approaches that account for the changes that are occurring and that are likely to occur as climate change effects unfold. Adaptive management frameworks provide guidance for managers to identify ways to evolve science and management toward more agile and rigorous approaches. These frameworks collect fisheries data which can inform managers about the impending effects of climate change and deal with uncertainty in setting management interventions.

Recently, a group of experts on crustacean fisheries—fisheries for species like crabs, shrimp and lobsters worked together to explore the application of adaptive fisheries management frameworks. This Crustacean Task Force evaluated the frameworks’ suitability for these fisheries, worked to unveil the current management gaps and challenges in crustacean fisheries in China, Indonesia, and the Philippines—the top crustacean fishing nations, and identified potential management solutions for crustacean fisheries with limited data and management capacity.

Why crustacean fisheries?

Crustacean fisheries represent an increasingly important contribution to global landings, food security and economic growth, especially in developing Asian-Pacific countries. However, the most productive and valuable crustacean fisheries are often characterized by low data availability, scientific capacity and limited fisheries management, overcapacity, and overfishing. These characteristics are especially true in Asian countries which dominate crustacean fisheries production globally. Recently, adaptive management frameworks, which use past and emerging information to provide stock status information and advice, have been touted as applicable to managing capacity- and data-limited fisheries. Therefore, understanding how adaptive management frameworks would work specifically for crustacean fisheries was essential for the Task Force.

Three widely used adaptive fisheries management frameworks (FISHE, FishPath, and DLMtool) were applied to three Asian crustacean fisheries (the Chinese Bohai Sea mantis shrimp fishery, the Indonesian Java Sea blue swimming crab fishery, and the Philippines blue swimming crab fisheries). The Task Force leaders adopted an interactive consultation approach to collect information on the fisheries from a range of experts familiar with these fisheries. By analyzing the collected information within the workflow of the three frameworks, the Task Force found that these particular crustacean fisheries share challenges. These challenges included low management and enforcement capacity and a lack of high-quality data and research that could enable empirical model-based stock assessment. The adaptive management frameworks provided suitable recommendations for monitoring, assessment and management that practitioners could use to strengthen management. One key finding was the effectiveness of the proposed management options hinged on accounting for the unique life history characteristics of crustacean species, their sensitivity to climate change, and the multispecies dynamics of the fisheries that catch crustacean stocks. Considering these fisheries’ complex socioeconomic dynamics, the Task Force found it necessary to adopt interdisciplinary management considerations requiring identifying and incorporating new sources of ecological and socioeconomic data and information.

The findings of the Task Force highlighted the unique strengths and weaknesses of each of the three adaptive management frameworks in advising crustacean fisheries management. The Task Force proposed an integrated framework comprising the most vital elements of the three frameworks to produce a more comprehensive adaptive management roadmap tailored to crustacean fisheries. This comprehensive framework involves a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches that could apply depending on the fisheries’ contextual factors and capacities. The Task Force has a paper in review describing the approach that would allow crustacean fisheries managers to evaluate and find ways to reduce the gaps in their management system. This approach will help managers pursue sustainable science and management approaches in the face of emerging climate change impacts.

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