Webinar with representatives from all five tuna-RFMOs highlighted the importance of capacity building and other harvest strategy lessons learned.

October 17, 2023

AuthorJohn Bohorquez
Senior Program Associate, International Fisheries ✉

Webinar with representatives from all five tuna-RFMOs highlighted the importance of capacity building and other harvest strategy lessons learned.

In April of this year, Harveststrategies.org and FAO announced, “a bold new partnership to promote harvest strategy development and implementation for international tuna fisheries.” This four-year project aims to expand the knowledge base among fishery managers, scientists, industry, and other stakeholders on the benefits of harvest strategies (i.e., management procedures) for sustainable management of international stocks.  Among several mediums from an eLearning course to in-depth factsheets, this partnership is also producing a quarterly webinar series to bring together experts and interested parties to explore and debate a myriad of topics related to harvest strategies. 

The first webinar in this series took place on July 20, 2023, titled, “Taking Stock – Harvest Strategies at the tRFMOs” (watch the recording on YouTube here!).  Moderated by Shana Miller, Director of International Fisheries Conservation at The Ocean Foundation, the webinar had over 120 participants tune in to 6 panelists representing all 5 tuna-RFMOs plus an industry specialist.  In advance of our second webinar in the series on October 19th/20th, we’ve compiled the valuable insights of our expert panelists from the July session so you can get caught up to speed on what’s been discussed so far!

CCSBT (Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna): 

  • Dr. Campbell Davies of CSIRO Environment kicked things off with a review of the first-ever harvest strategy for a tRFMO – southern bluefin tuna, adopted in 2011.  As an important harvest strategy success story, lessons from this fishery included:
    • That, “the development and selection process [for harvest strategies] is highly technical, and can be abstract and confusing to stakeholders”;
    • Independent or external review is “central to trust [between relevant parties], particularly in contested situations, and facilitates better outcomes”;
    • Experience with the harvest strategy development process “generates better understanding and ownership”;
    • Benefits to the culture and quality of fisheries management – CCSBT went from, “contested and nonfunctional to orderly, functional and strategic,” once the harvest strategy was in place;
    • “Increased confidence and predictability of the management process for stakeholders”;
    • And other indirect benefits of harvest strategies include the ability to set bounds for the fishery and to provide a platform “to examine the value of new information and investment in research and monitoring.”

IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission):

  • Dr. Alexandre Aires-da-Silva, Head of Scientific Research Division for the IATTC Secretariat, then covered the progress of harvest strategies in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.  This included an inside look at the early stages of implementing harvest strategies and lessons learned from challenges faced along the way such as:
    • The impact of COVID-19 on the workplan, particularly with respect to meetings and workshops;
    • The importance of representation and continuity of delegates, respectively, as limited representation and high turnover of government representatives has impeded progress;
    • The importance of effective meetings for RFMOs at large, including but also irrespective of MSE, as IATTC experienced unforeseen challenges to Commission-level meetings in 2020-2021 that limited progress for the RFMO in all areas;
    • The importance of sustainable funding to see the MSE work through completion, as IATTC was at risk of running out of funds by end of 2023 that would have delayed MSE work (Note: the funding was approved at the Commission meeting in August 2023);
    • And the value of workshops to improve capacity among member governments to engage in harvest strategy development, which IATTC has invested in significantly to advance MSE work in recent years.

ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas):

  • Mr. Shingo Ota, the ICCAT Panel 2 chair, provided the overview of harvest strategies at ICCAT. In 2022, ICCAT made history by adopting a harvest strategy for Eastern and Western Atlantic bluefin tuna, the first ever multi-stock harvest strategy.  Mr. Ota provided a thorough overview of the years of work that went into this uniquely complex harvest strategy, including the management options reviewed and selected at various stages. The presentation emphasized the following lessons for harvest strategy development:
    • That care be taken for the use and consistency of technical terms (e.g., to stay consistent whether using “harvest strategies” or “management procedure”);
    • Timing is key, and moments when the total allowable catch is likely to increase are ideal opportunities to introduce a harvest strategy;
    • There should be a specific reason to implement the harvest strategy in addition to overarching needs for lowering risk and increasing stability;
    • To understand that MSE takes time and effort, and to make sure that all parties involved understand beforehand that it is not possible to restart the MSE process once initiated even if people do not like the results;
    • And as harvest strategies are complex, long-term undertakings, to take care as to when different components of the harvest strategy are explained to managers and stakeholders.

IOTC (Indian Ocean Tuna Commission): Dr. Paul deBruyn, IOTC Executive Secretary:

  • Dr. DeBruyn provided an overview of harvest strategies at IOTC, which has so far adopted two harvest strategies for skipjack (2016) and bigeye tuna (2022) in the Indian Ocean.  This included a review of steps for fully implementing the bigeye harvest strategy (including an allocation regime), which will be put into action in 2024, emphasizing the fact that work with harvest strategies does not end at adoption but requires diligent management throughout its operations.  Lessons learned from Dr. DeBruyn’s presentation included:
    • The importance of fully specified harvest strategies over harvest control rules, which provide better certainty of both inputs and outputs;
    • The “constant” need for capacity building, especially due to turnover of individuals involved to make sure everyone stays on the same page;
    • The need to translate the technical aspects behind harvest strategies to the more practical management advice to help improve communication between scientists and managers
    • And to strike a balance between making the technical components of harvest strategies understandable without oversimplifying them. 

WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission):

  • Covering the largest of all tRFMOs by area managed, Rhea Moss-Christian (WCPFC Executive Director) provided an overview of WCPFC’s progress on harvest strategies for all 6 tuna stocks they manage independently or jointly with IATTC.  Takeaways from WCPFC’s work so far have included:
    • The importance of capacity building, which was the most important and fundamental lesson, to ensure that there is both direct engagement with all stakeholders and that those stakeholders are “in a position to implement harvest strategies when they’re adopted”;
    • That there can be a resistance to change and new management approaches, and that the Commission is patient and accepts small changes over time, when necessary; 
    • To remember that progress is possible, as seen with several stocks in WCPFC, and to maintain focus despite setbacks to realize these “small gains”;
    • That markets can be an important driving factor and that “we cannot ignore or separate our work from the demands on the consumer side”;
    • The importance of fostering a dialogue between managers and scientists, which has been a challenge.

Industry panelist:  Mr. Brian Jeffriess, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASTBIA)

  • The session also included remarks from Brian Jeffriess, the CEO of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASTBIA).  Mr. Jeffriess provided a retrospective on the perceptions of several groups of stakeholders on harvest strategies since the adoption of Southern bluefin tuna that led to a series of unexpected lessons learned including that:
    • Through increased confidence in the science, harvest strategies can lead to increased investment in fisheries science;
    • By helping stabilize the fishery, harvest strategies have helped increase the confidence of financial institutions in the Southern bluefin tuna fishery, which can help the fishery gain access to preferential financing;
    • The harvest strategy has given CCSBT industry stakeholders the confidence to increase long-term investment in the fishery;
    • And that industry stakeholders should not be afraid of change, and in the experience of Southern bluefin tuna, slower change and more conservative increases helped avoid big changes to the fishery that industry stakeholders were afraid of.

One of the overarching takeaways from these presentations was the emphasis on capacity building to help managers and other stakeholders better understand harvest strategies as fishery organizations work to scale this science-based approach around the world.  This can come through several mediums, from workshops to designated science-management dialogue groups, among others. Here at www.harveststrategies.org, we’re trying to facilitate that capacity building by developing a multimedia suite of open access communications tools in multiple languages. 

Don’t forget to register here for our next webinar, which will focus on harvest strategies for tropical tunas, scheduled for October 19th/20th, depending on time zone!

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