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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Scientist Doug Butterworth on the Benefits of Harvest Strategies

Professor Emeritus Doug Butterworth of the University of Cape Town in South Africa is one of the world’s most influential fisheries scientists. In this video, he speaks about the value of harvest strategies in fisheries management and why it is critical for tuna regional fisheries management organizations to implement these science-based management tools.

Doug Butterworth
Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town
On the Benefits of Harvest Strategies

Q1: What are harvest strategies (i.e. management procedures)?

Doug Butterworth: In essence, harvest strategies amount to agree the rules before you play the game. Essentially, they are just an elaboration of what became evident from the fairly disastrous collapses of the major pelagic fisheries in the '60s and '70s of the last century. Where the post-mortem examination said the problem really was, every time action needed to be taken, an argument would be found to say-- let's just put it off one more year in the hope things get better.

What harvest strategies are doing, is they're saying no. You set up the rules first, and then you stick to the rules. Because if you don't have that situation, when you get into trouble, the action that’s taken is too little too late.

Q2: What is management strategy evaluation (MSE)?

Doug Butterworth: MSE stands for Management, Strategy, Evaluation. And in essence, what it is saying is-- use computer simulation testing to check out the rules you plan to apply to a fish stock before you actually go out there and apply them. In other words, make sure that they're going to work before you try them out.

Q3: What are the advantages of harvest strategies?

Doug Butterworth: The great advantage of management procedures is they specify beforehand what the rules will be for setting the TACs. So you don't get unnecessary debates and changes that make no effective benefit for the stock concerned. From the manager's' point of view then, the advantage is a quick and simple way of getting agreement on what the TAC recommendation is going to be. As far as the industry is concerned, it actually gives them greater security. Because they have an idea of what's going to happen, and then not live to suffer the vagaries of a debating process around what is the best assessment for this year.
So in the longer run, we get better management of the resource.

Q4: How are harvest strategies better at dealing with uncertainty?

Doug Butterworth: A great advantage of management procedures is they provide a structured approach to deal with uncertainty that the conventional assessment procedure does not.

And they look for what is called robustness. What it means is that, even if you got it wrong -- as regards, what is the resource doing, how does it behave – the formula you use to set the catches will still provide reasonable performance. That means it will still provide, not exactly, but fairly close to the level of catches you’d have expected. And more particularly, it will still secure you against levels of depletion of the resource that you want to avoid.

Q5: What is the role of managers under harvest strategies?

Doug Butterworth: There is the concern that harvest strategies tie the hands of managers. But I think, this is ill-placed because it fails to recognize that it is the managers who are choosing the harvest strategies in the first place. The responsibility of the scientists is to present a range of harvest strategies, and importantly, also the implications of each of those harvest strategies.
What is critical, though, is the managers, having accepted the rules, must beprepared to stick by the rules as they play the game.

Q6: How are harvest strategies expanding globally?

Doug Butterworth: The progress has been slow.
But slowly, one is seeing an expansion of these activities. If you go back 10, 15 years, perhaps, you had application in no more than one or two countries and one or two RFMOs. Now, that is expanding. It's particularly expanding in the tuna RFMOs, where originally, there was only the CCSBT, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which led the way and put a management procedure in place some years back.
But the other tuna RFMOs have accepted that they need to go the same way. And the implementation of at least some management procedures has either happened very recently, or is imminent.