Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) Progress Report (2007/08) & Work Plan (2008/9)
A 3 year (2008-2010) Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) Research Plan was approved by SC3 in August 2007 and by WCPFC4 in December 2007. This now allows work to proceed from one SC meeting to the next with funding from WCPFC for one full time equivalent research scientist position at SPC-OFP for the duration of the plan period. Additional funding has also been received from the French Pacific Fund, the Japan Trust Fund and Papua New Guinea for activities including travel, training and integration of national and regional analyses. The ERA Research Plan has the following HIGH-LEVEL OUTCOME: Identification of highly migratory species and associated / dependent species that are at relatively high risk of adverse effects due to fishing, for consideration by the SC in terms of further research or management responses. In pursuit of that outcome, the following RESEARCH OUTPUTS were identified in the Research Plan: (1) Enhanced Productivity-Susceptibility Analyses (PSAs) that are comparable, transferable and for which uncertainty has been quantified; (2) Identification of highly migratory species, or associated / dependent species at high apparent risk that can be assessed using existing data and models; (3) Identification of data requirements, through fisheries monitoring or bio/ecological research, in order for other high-risk species to be assessed; (4) Scientific support for SIDS in Implementing ERA/EAFM at the national level, as requested by countries/territories and in collaboration with FFA. Since SC3, national analyses have been carried out under Output (4) for Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Kiribati. Collaborative analyses have also been carried out with/by colleagues in New Zealand and USA (Hawaii) under Output (1), including analyses of spatial overlaps of seabirds and fishing effort in the New Zealand EEZ. Discussions have taken place but no activities have been carried out under Outputs (2) & (3) during 2007/8. In addition to activities carried out under the ERA Research Plan, SPC-OFP held a two-day ERA Training Workshop for 25 colleagues from Pacific Island countries and territories in June. We have also participated in an initiative in collaboration with FFA and SPREP to develop a Regional Plan of Action (RPOA) on Sharks. Trends in catches and catch rates for non-target highly migratory fish species have been estimated and a database on bycatch biological characteristics and bycatch mitigation methods has been developed. For the period 2008/9 (i.e. from SC4 to SC5) national scale analyses are planned for Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia and French Polynesia. In further collaboration with New Zealand it is planned to extend the seabird ERA work into high seas areas. Through further work under Output (1) we plan to identify key shark species at high apparent risk from fishing, and to investigate whether such species are amenable to stock assessment under Output (2); if they are not we will proceed to consider them under Output (3). These activities will feed into the WCPFC Shark Research Programme. We also propose to carry out several turtle bycatch mitigation projects in collaboration with FFA and certain CCMs.