Pacific Saury, in decline, will benefit from MSE

September 9, 2022

AuthorSara Pipernos
Program Associate, International Fisheries ✉

Pacific saury, a small fish with a big role in the ecosystem, is also an important food source in several nations. However, the stock is both overfished and experiencing overfishing. To rebuild Pacific saury and sustain a productive and predictable fishery, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) is developing a management procedure (MP).

NPFC will convene its second Small Working Group on Management Strategy Evaluation for Pacific Saury (SWG MSE PS) on Sept. 12-13. This meeting follows the success of the first meeting in February. NPFC established this science-management dialogue group (SMD) in 2021, a forum for scientists, managers and stakeholders to work together as they strive to develop a MP and set a transparent and collective vision for the Pacific saury fishery.

NPFC aims to develop both an interim harvest control rule (HCR) by 2023 and a full MP, to be tested via management strategy evaluation (MSE), in three to five years. To kickstart this process, participants received comprehensive presentations at the first meeting that detailed best practices for MSE development and initial possibilities for a Pacific saury MSE. The group made progress towards the development of the interim HCR and corresponding short-term management objectives.

While a short-term HCR will improve the management of Pacific saury, only a full MSE-tested MP can provide precautionary and predictable management in the long term. An MSE identifies the best performing MP among competing objectives whilst balancing tradeoffs and accounting for uncertainties in the population, fishery and environment. As such, development of an MSE should take place at the same time as the short-term HCR.

At the upcoming meeting, participants will be asked to discuss management objectives and technical matters on operating models and performance measures, among other items related to the development of a MP.

A growing list of MSEs have been explored globally for shorter-lived species, including South Pacific jack mackerel and Northeast Atlantic mackerel. Pacific saury has a lifespan of two years, and so, NPFC can look to these other management bodies’ successes in developing MSEs for shorter-lived species as the MP is developed.

Initiation of the MSE process must not wait until the short-term HCR is complete. Undertaking these two processes simultaneously would benefit the NPFC in several ways. First, it allows the MSE to be informed by the progress made and decisions needed to complete the short-term HCR.  Second, it would provide for a smoother transition between the two management measures.

It’s clear that MPs can provide a necessary solution to rebuild the Pacific saury stock – and the valuable fisheries that target it. Now it’s time to dive into the work.

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