Developing harvest strategies for low-value and data-poor fisheries: Case studies from three Australian fisheries

Natalie A. Dowling, David C. Smith, Ian Knuckey, Anthony D.M. Smith, Phil Domaschenz, Heather M. Patterson, Wade Whitelaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Australia has developed a Harvest Strategy Policy (HSP) for Commonwealth fisheries. A harvest strategy specifies the management actions necessary to achieve defined resource objectives in a given fishery, resulting in a formal and proactive management approach that is transparent to all stakeholders. The objectives of the HSP are defined in terms of target and limit biomass reference points, although proxies can be used. It is a significant challenge, therefore, to develop harvest strategies for most small fisheries, which are typically data-poor, have only basic or no formal stock assessments, and have low Gross Value of Production (GVP). For the small Commonwealth fisheries, even indirect biomass estimates are unavailable and, due to their low GVP, it is unlikely that relevant research will be undertaken to determine reliable biomass estimates in the foreseeable future. This paper provides insight into developing harvest strategy frameworks that reconcile the reality and limitations of small fisheries with the intent of the HSP: to cease or avoid overfishing, to rebuild overfished stocks, and to maintain stocks at levels corresponding to the maximum economic yield. The process of harvest strategy development is evaluated and general principles for the pragmatic development and implementation of harvest strategies for small, low-value, data-poor fisheries are considered. These general principles include (i) the development of sets of triggers with conservative response levels, with progressively higher data and analysis requirements at higher response levels, (ii) identifying data gathering protocols and subsequent simple analyses to better assess the fishery, (iii) archiving biological data for possible future analysis, and (iv) the use of spatial management, either as the main aspect of the harvest strategy or an augmentation with other measures. The value of an iterative approach involving stakeholders and managers is emphasized. The above principles are illustrated by three case studies from Australia's small Commonwealth fisheries: the Western Deepwater and North West Slope Trawl Fisheries, the Coral Sea Fishery, and the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-390
Number of pages11
JournalFisheries Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Data-poor
  • Harvest strategy
  • Iterative approach
  • Low-value fisheries
  • Pragmatic management
  • Stakeholder engagement


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