Systematic approach to estimating ecological risks in marine fisheries
Astles, K., 2008. A systematic approach to estimating ecological risks in marine fisheries. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in agriculture, veterinary science, nutrition and natural resources, 3(45): 1–16.
Ecological risk assessment is a tool used to develop management plans for fisheries. These plans are used to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF), a framework for fishery management used worldwide. EAF requires fisheries to be managed within the context of their ecological, social and economic relationships. The ecological components of an ecosystem that could be affected by fishing activities include harvested species (commercial and non-commercial), habitats, species assemblages and ecological processes. The risk to the sustainability of all these components from the potential impacts of fishing activities needs to be assessed. This is done using ecological risk assessment. This paper reviews how ecological risk is defined and used in marine fisheries, the methods used to estimate ecological risks and highlights essential aspects needed for any approach to estimating ecological risk in marine fisheries. There has been a general distinction between the northern and southern hemispheres in the development of methods for estimating ecological risks for marine fisheries, largely driven by differences in the legislative requirements of different countries. Broadly there are two main approaches of risk assessment in marine fisheries – species-specific approaches such as stock assessments and vulnerability to extinction; and ecosystem approaches such as mathematical modelling and hazard-exposure methods. Four hazard-exposure methods are reviewed in detail in this paper as these have not been reviewed elsewhere. NSW DPI developed and used one of the four hazard-exposure methods for its environmental impact assessments of commercial fisheries in 2001 – 2005. The method provided a robust, repeatable and transparent approach to ecological risk assessment and played an important role in developing the fishery management strategies for commercial fisheries in NSW. Based on that experience ten essential elements needed for any method for estimating ecological risk in marine fisheries are identified.