Fisheries Research Articles

Refinements to harvest strategies to enable effective implementation of Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management for the multi-sector, multi-species fisheries of Western Australia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Fisheries Research


Print: 0165-7836 Electronic: 1872-6763


Harvest strategies; Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management; Resource-based approach sectoral allocations; Social and economic objectives; Annual catch tolerance levels


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


To address increasing community expectations and deliver the ‘social licence to operate’, fisheries management in Western Australia (WA) has been systematically adopting a suite of reforms termed Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM). EBFM extends beyond the fishery-level ‘ecosystem approach’ of considering ecological, social and economic objectives by taking a resource-level approach to coordinate management of all fishing sectors that capture a ‘resource’ (which can be defined as one or more species) to better deliver overall community outcomes. This initiative required refinements to harvest strategies to cover the broader EBFM scope and also to deal with the challenges associated with their application to the multi-sector, multi-species fisheries common in WA. The efficacy of these EBFM-based harvest strategies was assessed using four case study resources that cover the diversity of fishery management systems applied in WA. Key refinements include the use of indicator species for multi-species resources and establishing appropriate tolerance levels to determine the acceptable range of annual deviations in catch/effort that meet the levels specified by the harvest control rules or sectoral allocation decisions. While some refinements are ongoing, the case studies demonstrate that a single, comprehensive harvest strategy can collectively address all target species objectives and intra and inter-sectoral allocations at the resource-level plus any other relevant economic, social or ecological objectives (e.g. habitat and protected species interactions) at the appropriate level (resource or activity/sector). This holistic approach is already generating efficiency dividends through the adoption of tolerance levels that are minimising unnecessary management interventions. Similarly, fewer management elements now require pre-season negotiation which is also reducing administrative costs. The comprehensive but agile approach adopted by WA is likely to be especially relevant for other coastal jurisdictions with highly variable environments where fisheries often have multiple sectors, species, stakeholders and objectives that need to be considered.