Assessing fish stocks in a data-poor environment

Fishermen using manual fishing methods (Photo: Neeraj Khera, GIZ India)

Fishermen using manual fishing methods (Photo: Neeraj Khera, GIZ India)

A two-day training workshop in Kochi, India, on ‘Calculating maximum sustainable yield (CMSY)’ introduced fisheries scientists to a new method for assessing the status of a given fish stock. The workshop was jointly organised by the programme Participatory Management for Sustainable Use and Conservation of Wetland, Coastal and Marine Protected Areas (CMPA) and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).

As in many other parts of the world, Indian fish stocks show signs of overfishing, with all the usual consequences, such as overcapacity in the fishing sector, loss of potential economic returns endangering thousands of livelihoods, and ultimately loss of diversity in the fishery with dire consequences for marine ecosystems. The CMFRI assesses the status of fish stocks in India and formulates recommendations for their sustainable exploitation. Ideally, such recommendations are based on detailed fisheries statistics and research data. However, these are often difficult to obtain.

Group work during the CMSY workshop in Kochi; photo: CFMRI Kerala, India

The objective of the workshop was to introduce fisheries scientists in India and the region to a new method for assessing the status of a given fish stock with respect to the maximum sustainable yield that this stock could endure. The method has been developed and tested on a wide range of fish stocks by the GEOMAR Institute in Kiel (Germany). It uses commonly available catch data and ecological parameters, which can be derived from Fish Base, the world’s largest scientific database on fish.

The workshop was organised by scientists from the Philippines, Germany and Canada and took place in Kochi, India, in October 2017, with participants on site as well as online. Almost 20 scientists from CMFRI’s fisheries divisions and additional participants from Bangladesh and India worked on the data they had brought along, and were able to provide fairly robust assessments for seven fish stocks from India and Bangladesh as well as for regional tuna stocks.

The CMPA project is financed by the German Environment Ministry (BMUB) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Participants at the training workshop in Kochi, India; photo: CMFRI, Kerala, India