Workshop on ICES reference points (WKREF2)
The ICES Workshop on ICES reference points (WKREF2) was tasked review the WKREF1 report and based on the outcome develop updated guidelines for the ICES reference points system and recommendations for ACOM consideration. The WKREF1 report has suggested 5 key recommendations to simplify and harmonise the ICES reference points framework representing a major change to the current guidelines. At WKREF2, we detailed discussions and four key concerns were raised about the proposed approach.
The first related to the simplification of rules to define Blim. Around two thirds of category 1 stocks would end up as WKREF1 “Blim Type 2” where Blim would be set as a fraction of B0. The Allee effect or “depensation” maybe more important than previously thought and should be furthered explored for ICES stocks since it has important consequences for Blim. A number of challenges and issues around defining Blim using the current guidelines were documented. Some suggestions on improvement criteria were discussed including using classifiers to define spasmodic stocks and using change point algorithms to address non-stationary productivity regimes. However, further work is need to make these approaches operational and there was no consensus that the WKREF1 Blim types should replace the current guidelines.
WKREF1 recommended that the FMSY proxy should be based on a biological proxies and should be less than the deterministic FMSY. It was pointed out that the stochastic FMSY estimated in EqSim for example, is lower than the deterministic FMSY and that the current guidelines ensure that the FMSY should not pose a more than 5% risk to Blim. A large amount of work described in WD 1 was carried out to develop an MSE framework to consistency and robustness test a candidate reference point system for North East Atlantic stocks. However, WKREF2 recommended that further work needs to be carried out to condition and test the simulation framework before the conclusions could be adopted by ICES and incorporated into the guidelines.
A number of considerations for defining MSY related reference points were discussed including using model validation and prediction skill to ensure that ICES provide robust and credible ad-vice. There is evidence that density dependence (DD) is important in the majority of ICES stocks (68% in recruitment and 54% in growth). The correct prediction of the shape and strength of density-dependence in productivity is key to predicting future stock development and providing the best possible long-term fisheries management advice. A suggested approach to use surplus production models (SPMs) to account for DD in FMSY was suggested and discussed but there was no consensus on whether that approach was appropriate. There was consensus that the FECO approach as a means of adapting target fishing mortality to medium-term changes in productivity should be included in the guidelines subject to a benchmark and ACOM approval.
While WKREF1 and 2 focused mainly on Category 1 stocks ToR c) called for a “simplified and harmonised set of guidelines for estimating MSY and precautionary reference points applicable in the advice framework across various ICES stock categories.” Ideally the ICES assessment categories should provide equivalent risk across all stocks. This issue was discussed but no recommendations emerged.
There was no consensus a revised reference point framework was proposed at WKREF2. However, it was agreed that it should be presented here for further discussion at ACOM and other fora. The key feature of the suggested approach is that the stock status evaluation is treated independent of the Advice Rule (AR). The main feature of the system is that the biomass trigger is not linked to a stock status evaluation, it is linked to the expected biomass when fishing at the target fishing mortality, in contrast to the current ICES approach. It also entailed that FMSY would also become an upper limit of fishing mortality and that the advised fishing mortality would be set at or lower than that level. WKREF2 did not discuss what to do in situations where SSB< Blim or alternative forms of HCR for the advice rule. Building community understanding and consensus around simplified and harmonised guidelines has yet to be achieved. A further workshop WKREF3 will be required to achieve that aim. The report includes 6 recommendations for ACOM consideration.
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