August 12, 2021
In light of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers and fishermen alike were forced to adapt to a different world, both on the water and in the negotiation room. Regardless of this challenge, the work towards the development of harvest strategies in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) has continued with the help of considerable support from The Pacific Community (SPC). To highlight these efforts, Scott et al. published a paper in advance of the 17thRegular Session of the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), held August 11-19, 2021. The report detailed the latest in capacity building and engagement to educate managers, scientists, and stakeholders about all aspects of a harvest strategy by the SPC (WCPFC’s science provider), the WCPFC, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and member states.
Most recently, SPC led educational workshops for Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, and Palau in an online format due to ongoing travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, R-Shiny training tools that allow users to explore the performance of a variety of harvest strategies have been developed to promote capacity building, including introductions to harvest control rules and performance indicators, as well as more specialized decision-making tools that explore the preliminary results of management strategy evaluation (MSE) frameworks for skipjack and South Pacific albacore. An online course, hosted on the open-source learning management system Moodle, is also currently in production to offer easy access to a training course that is dedicated to harvest strategies. Funding has been provided for these projects by New Zealand.
Also noted in the report, a science-management dialogue (SMD) process has been recommended as way to continue the discussion and push harvest strategy development forward. A SMD would provide a forum for scientists, managers, and other stakeholders to have an iterative exchange on their visions for the fishery, structure of the harvest strategy, and eventually, selection of a final harvest strategy. Along with the activities noted above, the formal creation of a SMD by the WCPFC in 2021 would provide an ideal environment to progress the development of harvest strategies for the many stocks already undergoing MSE testing.
Harveststrategies.org commends the WCPFC, SPC, and New Zealand for their dedication to educate stakeholders about the harvest strategy development process, their transparency in updating interested parties in these ongoing efforts, and their impressive harnessing of technology that has allowed work to continue in this extraordinary time. This commitment to capacity building offers a great model for how both governments and RFMOs should engage their stakeholders to help build comfort with the harvest strategy approach. WCPFC members should utilize these many tools to better understand harvest strategies – both generally and in the context of specific stocks, in order to progress harvest strategy development toward adoption.