The Commonwealth harvest strategy policy requires the estimation of specific reference points for each stock to which the policy applies. Unfortunately, it is impossible to estimate directly such reference points for many stocks due to limited, or absence of, economic data as well as biological data. In most cases, this is due to the relatively small size of the fishery or the relatively low economic importance of the species concerned, making the routine collection of appropriate data too costly. The current TIER system of assessment only attends to those fisheries that can either have a detailed quantitative assessment (TIER 1), have limited biological data but some ageing data (TIER 3), or have meaningful catch and catch rate statistics (TIER 4). The methods and proxies already in place provide a means of designating a target and limit in terms of catch rates and catches. However, these reference points are only useful for those species for which catch rate data are a meaningful reflection of stock status. There are many species for which catch rates, even if available are very poor performance measures. Alternative methods and proxies need to be developed for even lower TIERs that provide for a consistent and defensible approach across all data poor fisheries. In most of these fisheries, economic data will also be absent, so some consistent means of developing meaningful and defensible target reference points needs to be developed.
Recognizing these needs, ComFRAB called for two related proposals: “Incorporating economics into harvest strategies without bioeconomic models” and “Quantitatively defining proxies for limit and target reference points in data poor fisheries”. Because these two proposals are closely linked and overlap in many ways, we opted to combine them into one single proposal. This will facilitate the team to work closely and reduce the overall project cost.