(a) Standard 6. Conservation and management measures shall take into account and allow for variations among, and contingencies in, fisheries, fishery resources, and catches.
(b) Conservation and management. Each fishery exhibits unique uncertainties. The phrase “conservation and management” implies the wise use of fishery resources through a management regime that includes some protection against these uncertainties. The particular regime chosen must be flexible enough to allow timely response to resource, industry, and other national and regional needs. Continual data acquisition and analysis will help the development of management measures to compensate for variations and to reduce the need for substantial buffers. Flexibility in the management regime and the regulatory process will aid in responding to contingencies.
(1) In fishery management terms, variations arise from biological, social, and economic occurrences, as well as from fishing practices. Biological uncertainties and lack of knowledge can hamper attempts to estimate stock size and strength, stock location in time and space, environmental/habitat changes, and ecological interactions. Economic uncertainty may involve changes in foreign or domestic market conditions, changes in operating costs, drifts toward overcapitalization, and economic perturbations caused by changed fishing patterns. Changes in fishing practices, such as the introduction of new gear, rapid increases or decreases in harvest effort, new fishing strategies, and the effects of new management techniques, may also create uncertainties. Social changes could involve increases or decreases in recreational fishing, or the movement of people into or out of fishing activities due to such factors as age or educational opportunities.
(2) Every effort should be made to develop FMPs that discuss and take into account these vicissitudes. To the extent practicable, FMPs should provide a suitable buffer in favor of conservation. Allowances for uncertainties should be factored into the various elements of an FMP. Examples are:
(i) Reduce OY. Lack of scientific knowledge about the condition of a stock(s) could be reason to reduce OY.
(ii) Establish a reserve. Creation of a reserve may compensate for uncertainties in estimating domestic harvest, stock conditions, or environmental factors.
(iii) Adjust management techniques. In the absence of adequate data to predict the effect of a new regime, and to avoid creating unwanted variations, a Council could guard against producing drastic changes in fishing patterns, allocations, or practices.
(iv) Highlight habitat conditions. FMPs may address the impact of pollution and the effects of wetland and estuarine degradation on the stocks of fish; identify causes of pollution and habitat degradation and the authorities having jurisdiction to regulate or influence such activities; propose recommendations that the Secretary will convey to those authorities to alleviate such problems; and state the views of the Council on unresolved or anticipated issues.
(d) Contingencies. Unpredictable events - such as unexpected resource surges or failures, fishing effort greater than anticipated, disruptive gear conflicts, climatic conditions, or environmental catastrophes - are best handled by establishing a flexible management regime that contains a range of management options through which it is possible to act quickly without amending the FMP or even its regulations.
(1) The FMP should describe the management options and their consequences in the necessary detail to guide the Secretary in responding to changed circumstances, so that the Council preserves its role as policy-setter for the fishery. The description should enable the public to understand what may happen under the flexible regime, and to comment on the options.
(2) FMPs should include criteria for the selection of management measures, directions for their application, and mechanisms for timely adjustment of management measures comprising the regime. For example, an FMP could include criteria that allow the Secretary to open and close seasons, close fishing grounds, or make other adjustments in management measures.
(3) Amendment of a flexible FMP would be necessary when circumstances in the fishery change substantially, or when a Council adopts a different management philosophy and objectives.