Policy Briefing 2: Putting the Science into Regionalisation – Consensus from policy makers, stakeholders & scientists

On 26th February 2014, 43 high-level industry stakeholders, scientists and government representatives met to identify practical steps supporting an effective knowledge base for regionalised fisheries management.

Recommendations, arising from major points of discussion, included:

1. Consensus statement on engagement among all stakeholders

2. Enhancing Regional Technical Groups with experts and stakeholders

3. Taking an ‘Adaptive and Learning-by-doing’ approach to the discard ban

4. Communicating effectively and building trust for regional management

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Partcipants gathered in Brussels for the GAP2 workshop

The reform of Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sets the stage for fishery managers and stakeholders to take the initiative and responsibility to develop plans for managing fisheries within their region. To facilitate management by these parties, relevant knowledge needs to be developed, accessed and deployed in a regional context. But how best to do this raises the following questions:

  • What knowledge is needed for implementation of discard plans and multi-annual plans?
  • Who will develop the knowledge base and how can its credibility and reliability be ensured so that users have the confidence they need?
  • What funding and support is needed for the research infrastructure to deliver the knowlegde for regional decision-making?
  • How could the knowledge be accessed and deployed in a regional context?

Building on the rapidly evolving process of regionalisation of the CFP, GAP2 organised a dialogue meeting in Brussels on 26 February 2014. Hosted by the European Commission, 43 high-level industry stakeholders, scientists, government and commission representatives met to identify practical steps supporting development, organisation and application of the knowledge base for regionalised fisheries management. A report on the detailed comments made at the workshop is available online here.

1. Consensus statement from the participants

Participants felt strongly that the process of developing regional management of their fisheries should be inclusive of all relevant stakeholders, due to the diversity of interests, knowledge and influence.  All agreed to the following text:

 “Participants call upon the Regional Groups (Scheveningen Group, North Western Waters Group, South Western Waters Group, BaltFish Group) to provide the opportunity for stakeholders (policy makers, scientists, NGOs, fishermen, processors etc) to discuss and organise regional cooperation on developing the approaches and means to implement discard plans and multi annual plans”.

2. Taking an “Adaptive and Learning-by-doing” approach to the discard-ban

The implementation of the discard ban in European fisheries was identified as a major challenge for the industry, for the management process and for knowledge providers. Participants voiced many questions and concerns about the specific interpretation of different elements of the discard ban and how that would pan out in the different regional groupings. Questions arose about future “choke species” and about the interpretation of “survivability” and “de minimis”. These questions clearly indicate the challenges that are now part and parcel of the new CFP regulation.

Participants concluded that the implementation of a discard ban would need an adaptive and learning-by-doing approach. In Norway it has taken 20 years to develop their discard ban, through gradual introduction into more and more fisheries. While the EU new framework regulation specifies the overall timeframe for implementation of the discard ban, it is still possible to develop an adaptive and learning approach that would stimulate the incentives for the behavioural changes needed to make implementation effective. It would require an open and constructive approach among policy makers, the fishing industry, the control agencies and all other interested parties, so that practical issues can be resolved in an acceptable manner that respects legal requirements. A punitive regime that focuses on fines and controls only, could generate a counter–intentional result.

3. Developing Regional Technical Groups

Overall, attendees were keen to understand how to move from science-based single-stock fisheries advice to a co-created knowledge base, which addresses multiple species and fisheries, over multiple years. In particular, there was a strong interest on how to obtain the types of information and knowledge required.

Policy brief graphic

Illustration based on authors’ interpretation of participants’ comments

Working with the knowledge providers, like STECF and ICES, to define data needs and to make best use of available information and knowledge in a regional context, the group could provide the expertise to analyse, visualise and interpret available knowledge. Regional Technical Groups could also provide the means to make the information provided for decision-making transparent, by enabling access to meta-data information and to establish, where needed, an open review process.To address the challenges in the new regional context, participants explored different institutional solutions. Although participants were generally wary of creating yet another institutional structure, ideas were raised about enhancing the current Regional Technical Groups. Further developed, they could provide the opportunity for experts from different backgrounds to contribute to the regional decision-making process. Following agreement that regionalisation should provide the means to properly engage stakeholders, it was considered that the Regional Technical Groups would be lead by Member States and include Advisory Council members, control experts and ICES scientists.

In addition, improved linkages among the Regional Groups would help alleviate confusion over their mandate and help clarify the roles of stakeholders, scientists and member states.

4. Communicating effectively and building trust for regional management

Participants emphasized the requirement for effective communication of the knowledge used for regional decision-making, by providing access to digestible forms of information needed to create awareness and shared understanding. Other ways to strengthen mutual trust among industry, member states and scientists should also be encouraged, e.g. engagement of industry in data collection and improved understanding of how data are used and analysed.

Arriving at consensus from a diversity of interests and backgrounds was a genuine achievement. It is important now that these messages are widely communicated to support policy makers, fishery managers, stakeholders and research organisations in their work to develop discard and multi-annual plans.

 Steven Mackinson and Martin Pastoors

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