Case Study - MSC pre-assessment of Western Australian Fisheries, Gascoyne Coast


In March 2013, Acoura’s fiheries division Food Certification International (FCI) was appointed by the State Government of Western Australia to undertake the first of four multi-species pre-assessments in the region. Acoura has considerable experience of successfully delivering multi-species pre-assessments, most notably for Project Inshore, which was launched last year by a partnership of retailers, suppliers, NGOs and the fishing industry to analyse and provide sustainability plans for each of England’s inshore fisheries

The appointment by the State Government of Western Australia was an important milestone for Acoura, given that it was the company’s first contract in this part of the world and offers an opportunity to establish a permanent presence in the region.

Acoura gathered an experienced assessment team to pre-assess the Gascoyne Coast bioregion fisheries under the principle and criteria of the MSC standard.

What are the fisheries in the multi species pre-assessment?

A diverse range of fish and shellfish fisheries are involved. These are: Gascoyne pink snapper line; Gascoyne goldband snapper line; West coast deep sea crab; Shark Bay tiger prawn; Shark Bay king prawn; Shark Bay saucer scalloptrawl; Shark Bay saucer scallop prawn trawl; Shark Bay blue swimmer crabtrap; Shark Bay blue swimmer crab prawn trawl; Shark Bay blue skimmer crab scallop trawl; Shark Bay beach seine yellowfinned whiting; Shark Bay beach seine sea mullet, Exmouth Gulf king prawn; and Exmouth Gulf tiger prawn.

What experience does Acoura offer?

Acoura has considerable experience of performing consecutive multiple fishery pre-assessments. As these typically incorporate a variety of management measures, fishing techniques, areas and species there is the potential for the myriad combinations of conclusions to become excessively complex, long winded or difficult to follow. In the past Acoura have therefore given considerable thought about how best to undertake an analysis of such complex combinations, and present findings in a way which is readily understandable and accessible, to provide managers with a meaningful tool to determine and prioritise appropriate actions.

The approach Acoura now adopts has been tested and refined over a number of projects and its design clearly highlights patterns in the findings, making it easier for managers to take a strategic approach to addressing management gaps across all fisheries.

How is the project being implemented?

The project is divided into three stages: 1. Information gathering phase; 2.Scoring fisheries against the MSC Principle and Criteria; and 3. Completion of pre-assessment report. 

The first stage of the project focused on a site visit which took place from 13 to 16 May 2013 and was carried out by Nick Pfeiffer , Dr. Antonio Hervás, Tristan Southall and  John Ford of Acoura. A number of meetings with key stakeholders including fishermen, scientists, regulators took place to fill in information gaps and to explore and discuss any potential areas of concern. 

Stage 2 of the project is divided into three Principles. Principle 1 focuses on the stock, Principle 2 on the fishing gear and the ecosystems present in the bioregion, and Principle 3 interprets issues relating to management and governance.

From 18 to 22 May a scoring meeting was held in Perth (Hillarys) and Principle 2 and Principle 3 were scored.  The scoring regime developed by Acoura operates on a ‘traffic light’ red, orange and green system. Therefore, Red: automatic fail (falling short of the minimum acceptable standard); Orange: conditional pass (falling within the scope of the standard but below ‘good practice’, therefore requiring a condition and action plan; Green: unconditional pass (meeting or exceeding ‘good practice’.).

The month of June focused on the scoring meeting of Principle 1 and completion of the gap analysis activities of the project. The scoring meeting took place from the 10 to 12 June in Galway (Ireland) and was carried out by Dr Antonio Hervás, Dr Murray Mcdonald, Dr Rick Officer, Dr Julian Addison and Nick Pfeiffer. 

The gap analysis is essentially the identification of obstacles in the path of ultimately achieving the MSC Sustainable Fishing Standard. A gap analysis was provided to the Department of Fisheries (the client) in June with the aim to provide advice regarding the readiness of different fisheries for full assessment.  In addition an early recommendation of Units of Certification that could enter full assessment without any preparation work has been provided.

What next?

The next and final stage of the project consists in the completion of the pre-assessment report.  The first draft will be submitted 16 August and the project is to be completed on November 2013 after consultation of the draft report has been finalised.


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