Fisheries Research Articles

A risk assessment and prioritisation approach to the selection of indicator species for the assessment of multi-species, multi-gear, multi-sector fishery resources

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Marine Policy


Print: 0308-597X Electronic: 1872-9460


Ecosystem-based fisheries management; Index species; Stock assessment; Harvest strategies; Data limited; Resource poor


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


Assessing the stock status of mixed and/or multi-species fishery resources is challenging. This is especially true in highly diverse systems, where landed catches are small, but comprise many species. In these circumstances, whole-of-ecosystem management requires consideration of the impact of harvesting on a plethora of species. However, this is logistically infeasible and cost prohibitive. To overcome this issue, selected ‘indicator’ species are used to assess the risk to sustainability of all ‘like’ species susceptible to capture within a fishery resource. Indicator species are determined via information on their (1) inherent vulnerability, i.e. biological attributes; (2) risk to sustainability, i.e. stock status; and (3) management importance, i.e. commercial prominence, social and/or cultural amenity value of the resource. These attributes are used to determine an overall score for each species which is used to identify ‘indicator’ species. The risk status (i.e. current risk) of the indicator species then determines the risk-level for the biological sustainability of the entire fishery resource and thus the level of priority for management, monitoring, assessment and compliance. A range of fishery management regimes are amenable to the indicator species approach, including both effort limited fisheries (e.g. individually transferable effort systems) and output controlled fisheries (e.g. species-specific catch quotas). The indicator species approach has been used and refined for fisheries resources in Western Australia over two decades. This process is now widely understood and accepted by stakeholders, as it focuses fishery dependent- and/or independent-monitoring, biological sampling, stock assessment and compliance priorities, thereby optimising the use of available jurisdictional resources.



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