Harvest strategy

What is a harvest strategy?

A harvest strategy is a framework that specifies pre-determined management actions for a defined species necessary to achieve the agreed ecological, economic and/or social objectives.

So how does a harvest strategy work?

Harvest strategies provide clarity about the overall fishery objectives, fishery performance indicators, triggers for management action and appropriate management responses / decision rules.

  1. Objectives

    Fishery objectives outline where we want the fishery to be from an ecological, economic and social (triple bottom line) perspective and the time frame to achieve those objectives.

  2. Indicators

    Harvest strategies use data and information to track the performance of the fishery over time.  Such sources of information are known as indicators. These include things like biomass, catch rates, protected species interactions etc.

  3. Reference points

    To translate objectives into something tangible, harvest strategies establish reference points for a fishery. Reference points describe desirable and undesirable levels of performance in the fishery.

    Target Reference Points (TRP) is where we want the stock to be and describes a desirable level of performance. If a fishery is performing at or above its Target Reference Point; the fishery may be able to support additional levels of catch or fishing effort.

    Trigger Reference Points (TrRP) is a point where management intervention is needed to move the fishery towards its objective. This may involve taking action to reduce the amount of catch or fishing pressure in the fishery in order to allow fish stocks to recover.

    Limit Reference Points (LRP) describe the point at which the performance of the fishery is considered unacceptable and more drastic management action is immediately required. This could involve significantly reducing the level of catch or effort in the fishery or closing the fishery altogether to allow fish stocks to recover.

    Figure 1: Example of target and limit reference points for stock biomass.

  4. Decision rulesThe decision rules clearly state what pre-determined management action will be taken under certain circumstances. This usually involves adjusting (through quota, management units or bag limits etc.) the catch or fishing pressure in the fishery. By being clear about what action will be taken and when, harvest strategies help remove much of the uncertainty around how a fishery will be managed.

Queensland fisheries with similar management

A number of Queensland’s fisheries have many of the basic elements for a harvest strategy such as quota based management systems and decision rules. The coral trout fishery is one such example with decision rules already in place that guide quota adjustments based upon the catch rates from the preceding years. Under this system, the quota for the fishery was increased by 46 tonnes in 2017/18 in recognition of the high catch rates. Stock assessments of trout show that it is already operating at around maximum economic yield.

Australian fisheries managed using harvest strategies
The use of harvest strategies is recognised as best practice fisheries management with many of Australia’s fisheries now managed using harvest strategies. Examples include:

Western Australian Western Rock Lobster Fishery – Egg production and harvest rates are used as the basis for indicators and reference points. The decision rules in this fishery adjust the number of allowable pot days in the fishery in the coming season.

Australian Northern Prawn Fishery – The catch and catch rates of target species and the economic performance of the fishery are used as indicators with decision rules guiding when the fishing season should be closed. Additional information (including economics) helps determine whether the maximum amount of fishing effort should be adjusted in the coming season.

Example of hypothetical harvest strategy rules

Objective A – To increase catch rates in the fishery to above 50 kg per day.

Timeframe – To achieve the fishery’s objective (a catch rate of greater than 50 kg per day) within ten years.

Indicator – Daily catch rate as reported through the commercial fisheries logbook.

Reference Points

Target Reference Point – Catch rate of 55 kg per day

Trigger Reference Point – Catch rate of 25 kg per day

Limit Reference Point – Catch rates below 15 kg per day

Decision rules  

  1. If the catch rate in the preceding year increases above the Target Reference Point, the quota for the fishery will be increased by 100 tonnes.
  2. If the catch rate in the preceding year falls below the Trigger Reference Point, the quota for the fishery will be reduced by 100 tonnes.
  3. If the catch rate in the preceding year falls below the Limit Reference Point the fishery will be closed for one year. When the fishery is re-opened the quota will be 200 tonnes less than it was in the last year the fishery was open.

Objective B – To recover the fish stock to maximum sustainable yield (around 40% biomass).

Timeframe – 3-5 years.

Indicator – Biomass from annual stock assessment.

Reference Points

Target Reference Point – Fish stocks greater than 50% of unfished levels

Trigger Reference Point – Fish stocks less than 40% of unfished levels

Limit Reference Point – Fish stocks fall below 20% of unfished levels

Decision rules  

  1. If the biomass of the target species is less than 40%, a 10 % reduction in fishing pressure is required for the next two seasons.
  2. If the biomass of the target species is greater than 50%, fishing effort may be increased by up to 10% in the next season.
  3. If the biomass of the target species falls below 20% the fishery will be closed in the next season.

How will harvest strategies be developed?

Fisheries Queensland will be working with stakeholders to develop harvest strategies for Queensland’s fisheries, with a priority on trawl, crab and east coast inshore fisheries initially. Fishery working groups will play a vital role in identifying objectives, timeframes, indicators and reference points that form the basis of a fishery’s harvest strategy. The Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel will peer review draft harvest strategies.

Once a draft harvest strategy has been developed it will be released for public comment for at least 28 days. The feedback received from stakeholders and members of the public during this time will be considered by Fisheries Queensland and the working group so that any changes to the harvest strategy can be made before it is finalised.

The implementation of a harvest strategy may require changes to a fisheries management framework. In such cases there will be additional opportunities for members of the community to provide comment on the harvest strategy and any potential management reforms that may be required to support the implementation of a harvest strategy.

Where can I find more information?

The Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines for Implementing the Queensland Harvest Strategy Policy have now been approved and will help guide the development of harvest strategies by the fishery working groups.