Ecological Baseline Sought Before Diving In

4 27, 2016

The effects of climate change are frequently the subject of news media. In our part of the world, rising seas levels pose a real threat to many of our pacific neighbors.

In the Northern Hemisphere the melting of the polar ice cap has produced a different scenario. In the Arctic, as the polar ice cap reduces there is possibility that the seas will open to commercial exploitation of as yet untouched fisheries. Appropriately, concerns have been raised over the protection of newly discovered fishing grounds in the central Arctic Ocean. In fact, a full fishing moratorium has been called for to prevent international fishing fleets from fishing the area before enough is known about its existing ecosystem and fish stocks.

A ban has already been agreed to by Canada, United States, Norway, Denmark and Russia but there is now a drive to include other large nations who may take interest in this untapped area of the sea. Talks took place in November with hopes that an agreement will be reached by the end of 2016 to also include China, Korea, Japan, Iceland, and the EU in the full suspension until appropriate fisheries management measures are put in place. Simply, Scientists currently know too little about fish stocks in the area and what fish maybe migrating there as a result of climate change. Before commercial fishing vessels can access this area an ecological baseline needs to be determined so these stocks can be sufficiently manged and protected for future generations.

'You can't manage what you don't know'

It is great to see that opportunities like this are being managed with environmental consideration being a core focus right from the outset rather than only acting once over fishing becomes an issue. The commonly used phrase ‘You can’t manage what you don’t know’ is front of mind. The importance of having protocols, systems and resources in place to capture, monitor, analyse and report data is key in the successful management of any fishery no matter if it is in infancy or well established, such as in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Quota Management System is 30 years old this year. The ongoing success of this regime is contingent on good information and recognition of the need to evolve management to meet changes in the fisheries. Recently the fishing industry has invested in the development of a new Fisheries Management System architected in a manner that will provide greater flexibility to meet evolving management needs. It will also help organisations improve the way they manage their operations and to provide better data to industry and government users of the data (fisheries managers, policy, enforcement and scientists etc). Users of the data will be able to see “real time” data, enabling more efficient licencing and permitting, catch entitlement tracking and reporting, quota management and approved fishing vessel registration. The investment in the new system is based on the fundamental premise that the efficient management of fish stocks is reliant on data being collected and managed in a timely, accurate, and accessible manner.

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Posted on January 25, 2016

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