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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Simulation models for estimating productivity and trade-offs in the data-limited fisheries of New South Wales, Australia Forrest, Robyn Elizabeth


Recent shifts towards ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM) around the world have necessitated consideration of effects of fishing on a larger range of species than previously. Non-selective multispecies fisheries are particularly problematic for EBFM, as they can contribute to erosion of ecosystem structure. The trade-off between catch of productive commercial species and abundance of low-productivity species is unavoidable in most multispecies fisheries. A first step in evaluation of this trade-off is estimation of productivity of different species but this is often hampered by poor data. This thesis develops techniques for estimating productivity for data-limited species and aims to help clarify EBFM policy objectives for the fisheries of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It begins with development of an age-structured model parameterised in terms of optimal harvest rate, UMSY. UMSY is a measure of productivity, comparable among species and easily communicated to managers. It also represents a valid threshold for prevention of overfishing. The model is used to derive UMSY for 54 Atlantic fish stocks for which recruitment parameters had previously been estimated. In most cases, UMSY was strongly limited by the age at which fish were first caught. However, for some species, UMSY was more strongly constrained by life history attributes. The model was then applied to twelve species of Australian deepwater dogshark (Order Squaliformes), known to have been severely depleted by fishing. Results showed that the range of possible values of UMSY for these species is very low indeed. These findings enabled a preliminary stock assessment for three dogsharks (Centrophorus spp.) currently being considered for threatened species listing. Preliminary results suggest they have been overfished and that overfishing continues. Finally, an Ecopath with Ecosim ecosystem model, representing the 1976 NSW continental slope, is used to illustrate trade-offs in implementation of fishing policies under alternative policy objectives. Results are compared with those of a biogeochemical ecosystem model (Atlantis) of the same system, built by scientists from CSIRO. While there were large differences in model predictions for individual species, they gave similar results when ranking alternative fishing policies, suggesting that ecosystem models may be useful for exploring broad-scale strategic management options.

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