Scientists develop method to assess ecological risk

October 29th, 2009 - 5:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 29 (IANS) Scientists have developed a method called ecological risk assessment (ERA) which can identify the dangers of different fishing practices.
The method was developed by Tony Smith and Alistair Hobday from CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation) in association with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

“AFMA needed a tool for assessing the ecological risk associated with a diverse range of fishing practices: from the hand-selection of rock lobsters in the Coral Sea, to the trawling of Patagonian Toothfish deep in the Southern Ocean,” Smith says.

“We met the challenge with a three-step method that considers targeted and incidentally caught species, as well as threatened, endangered and protected species,” he said.

Ongoing research is further developing the method for habitats and ecological communities, the website Science Daily reported.

“Each level of analysis potentially screens out issues of low concern and directs attention to higher risk issues. This helps fishery managers to guard against unacceptable changes to the ecosystem, while being strategic about where to focus dollars and time,” Smith says.

“Our ERA reports document the most comprehensive assessment of the ecological impacts of fishing in Australia’s commercial fisheries and for any large set of fisheries in the world,” Hobday says.

“More than 1,200 species have been assessed, highlighting the diversity of Australian fisheries and pointing to risks requiring analysis and management, both for individual fisheries, and on a cumulative scale.”

The ERA process contributes to the strategic assessment of fisheries under the 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and flags priorities for research, data collection, monitoring and management.

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