MEPS prepress abstract  -  DOI:

Ecological Assessment of the Sustainable Impacts by Fisheries (EASI-Fish): A flexible vulnerability assessment approach to quantify the cumulative impacts of fishing in data-limited settings

Shane P. Griffiths*, Kathleen Kesner-Reyes, Cristina Garilao, Leanne M. Duffy, Marlon H. Román


ABSTRACT: In fisheries, vulnerability assessments—also commonly known as Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA)—have been an increasingly popular alternative to stock assessment to assess the vulnerability of non-target species in resource- and data-limited settings. The widely-used Productivity-Susceptibility Analysis (PSA) requires detailed species-specific biological information and fishery susceptibility for a large number of parameters to produce a relative vulnerability score. The two major disadvantages of PSA are that each species is assessed against an arbitrary reference point, and thus, cannot quantify cumulative impacts of multiple fisheries. This paper introduces an Ecological Assessment of the Sustainable Impacts by Fisheries (EASI-Fish); a flexible approach that quantifies the cumulative impacts of fisheries on data-limited bycatch species; demonstrated in eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) tuna fisheries. The method first estimates fishing mortality (F) based on the ‘volumetric overlap’ of each fishery the distribution of each species. F is then used in length-structured per-recruit models to assess population vulnerability status using conventional biological reference points. Model results were validated by comparison with stock assessments for bigeye and yellowfin tunas in the EPO for 2016. Application of the model to 24 species of epipelagic and mesopelagic teleosts, sharks, rays, sea turtles and cetaceans and identification of the most vulnerable species is demonstrated. With increasing demands on fisheries to demonstrate ecological sustainability, EASI-Fish allows fishery managers to more confidently identify vulnerable species to which resources can be directed to either implement mitigation measures or collect further data for more formal stock assessment.