Traditional fisheries management is a two-step process: First, scientists conduct stock assessments, and then fishery managers negotiate measures, such as catch quotas, to make sure that the resource—the targeted fish—is being used optimally and sustainably. Although this seems simple enough, the current approach has too often proved ineffective in its implementation.
An alternative approach, known as harvest strategies or management procedures, is emerging as the next innovation in fisheries management. Harvest strategies are pre-agreed frameworks for making fisheries management decisions. They are akin to agreeing to the rules before playing a game and shift the perspective from short-term, reactive decision-making to longer-term objectives. Although different management bodies name and define them slightly differently, all harvest strategies include these basic elements: management objectives; a monitoring program; indicators of the fishery’s status and population health, with associated reference points; a method to assess those indicators; and harvest control rules that set fishing opportunities, which could include catch and size limits, depending on the value of key indicators relative to the reference points. Robust harvest strategies are tested through a process called management strategy evaluation before they are implemented.