A qualitative risk-based assessment of impacts on marine habitats and harvested species for a data deficient wild capture fishery.
Available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2009.07.006
In Australia, marine fisheries are required to be managed in a manner in which the focus is on all parts of a marine environment, not just the species being fished. To do so requires that risks to all parts of a marine environment be assessed. Almost all fisheries have a lack of knowledge about some of these parts (e.g., habitats and threatened species). Qualitative methods (rather than quantitative) that can deal with these data deficiencies are required to assess the risks. This paper provides an example of a qualitative risk assessment method applied to a data-deficient ocean trawl fishery in NSW, Australia. The study focused on assessing species primarily targeted by commercial fishers and marine habitats. The assessment found that five species of sharks were at highest risk of becoming depleted if this harvesting was to continue unchanged. Seven species of fish and two species of invertebrates were at a moderately high level of risk. Biological habitats (e.g., sponges) were also at the highest level of risk. After determining the risk, the method then identifies specific issues that management needs to address to reduce the risks to targeted species of fish and invertebrates and habitats. This paper demonstrates that even with limited information about a fishery and the environment in which it operates, risk assessment procedures can be applied that are transparent, consistent, logical and repeatable.