MLMA Master Plan Appendix P. Partnerships

This appendix draws information and conclusions from a report by The Nature Conservancy that was prepared during the information gathering phase of the Master Plan amendment process (Wilson et al. 2016(opens in new tab)). It provides additional details regarding the potential role of partnerships in fisheries management. It also elaborates on the varying levels of capacity and longevity that stakeholder organizations should possess to effectively partner with the Department on certain tasks. As with the other appendices, it is anticipated this overview will continue to be expanded and refined as part of Master Plan implementation so it can serve as an effective resource to managers and stakeholders.

Fishery partnerships

As discussed in Chapter 8, partnerships between agencies, Tribes and tribal communities, fishing communities, NGOs, funders, and others span a broad continuum and differ in how responsibility and authority are shared. Regardless of the exact arrangement, the principles of partnerships typically infer the sharing of some management or governance tasks with non-government actors, including research and monitoring, regulatory scoping, decision-making, enforcement and surveillance, and conflict resolution.

Where a particular fisheries partnership falls on this continuum depends on numerous features, particularly the complexity of the task to be addressed and the capacity of the partnering entities. On the low end of this continuum, individuals might participate in a one-time stakeholder engagement process that requires minimal investment and commitment. The opposite end of this continuum includes formal partnerships typically laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding that details the partnering entities’ contribution to a shared management goal to be achieved by sustained collaboration over a long time period. Between these two extremes lie numerous opportunities for partnerships with varying formality, investment, and duration. Key to forming a successful partnership is understanding the capacity of partnering individuals or entities to fulfill what is expected of them. The discussion below identifies specific common tasks that the Department engages in as part of management. These tasks are generally ordered by the degree of capacity and longevity required on the part of stakeholders (see Figure P1).

Diagram showing six partnership-based approaches that are ranked from lower to higher. They are prioritization of management efforts, fishery specific planning, research and monitoring, stock assessments, decision rules, and compliance and enforcement
Figure P1. A continuum of partnership-based approaches (adapted from Wilson et al. 2016(opens in new tab)). The management tasks and types of partnerships are arranged along this continuum in terms of how much organizational capacity, funding and longevity is required for successful partnerships to help meet management objectives or tasks.

All partnerships require investment. In considering new partnership opportunities to improve fisheries management, the Department will need to evaluate whether a proposed partnership is mutually beneficial. The investment of funds, staff time, and other resources must be weighed against the benefits that will be realized from the partnership. As detailed below, some management activities likely lend themselves to beneficial partnerships more than others. Nevertheless, well-conceived fisheries partnerships can enhance the Department’s ability to fulfill its mission and achieve the objectives of the MLMA.

A CDFW biologist and a San Diego State University graduate student collecting biological information on spiny lobster as part of a collaborative research project. (CDFW photo)

Benefits of partnerships

When designed effectively and thoughtfully, partnerships are a powerful tool to support short- and long-term management and conservation goals, as well as strengthen the scope and integrity of data used to inform management decisions. Empowering Tribes and tribal communities, fishermen, local community members, and NGOs to become active partners in management can help tailor regulations and decisions to reflect current fishing practices and realistic on-the-water conditions. Localized knowledge and expertise can provide additional context to improve approaches to management. Studies have found that fishermen that possess an understanding of the rationale and legitimacy for certain decisions typically operate more responsible fishing practices and exhibit better compliance (McCay and Jentoft 1996).

In the face of increasingly variable ocean conditions, partnerships provide an effective mechanism to promote ecological and social resilience as discussed in Chapter 11. Fisheries management systems that rely on cooperative approaches and partnerships are often better equipped to address environmental change than conventional, top-down approaches (McClenachan et al. 2015). Resource users and harvesters, such as fishermen, are often first to notice changes in the environment (Dietz et al. 2003). Furthermore, effective climate change adaptation in marine fisheries demands improved knowledge of future ecosystem states. Developing collaborative partnerships with university researchers provides the opportunity to integrate best-available climate science directly into fisheries management decisions.

While the involvement of stakeholders as partners can require an investment of resources to support high start-up costs (Nielsen and Vedsmand 1997; Coglan and Pascoe 2015), the long-term investment in building support and cultivating stewardship offers ecological, economic, and social benefits, as well as direct benefits to fisheries managers. Below are examples of the ecological, economic, social, and direct benefits that have been realized through fisheries partnerships.

Potential ecological benefits

  • Maintenance of sustainable stock levels that are represented by long-term increases in abundance and stock health (Gutiérrez et al. 2011; Defeo et al. 2014).
  • Improved conservation of sensitive habitats, nursery grounds, and spawning grounds (Pinkerton 2009).

Potential economic benefits

  • Decreased cost of management for government agencies, especially in high-value fisheries (Coglan and Pascoe 2015).
  • Increased or maintained revenue streams through stabilized landings, and prevention of fishery collapse by ensuring assessments and harvest levels reflect actual stock sizes (Gutiérrez et al. 2011).

Potential social benefits

  • Increased community empowerment (Gutiérrez et al. 2011) and a more democratic and participatory system where the interests of government, fishermen, and community members become better aligned.

Potential benefits to the Department

  • Increased support for cost and task-sharing opportunities (Pinkerton 1994; Pinkerton 2009), creating the potential for more efficient and productive management.
  • Support and buy-in for fisheries management regulations and policies leading to enhanced compliance and better working relationships with industry.
Red abalone. (CDFW photo by A. Maguire)

Success of partnerships

Lessons learned in California and elsewhere provide some guidance and best practices for forming successful partnerships. The following elements are crucial to realize the potential of partnerships to contribute to fisheries management in California:

  • The need for durable and lasting fisheries organizations and strong fishing leadership.
  • The important role of change agents.
  • Access to consistent funding by stakeholder organizations.
  • Multi-directional generation and exchange of knowledge/information.
  • Presence of strong top-down governance and management regulations.
  • Ability to build trust and social capital.
  • The degree to which management decisions are decided upon in an open and transparent process.

Fisheries organizations and fishing leadership

Fisheries organizations, from legislatively-mandated arrangements to volunteer associations, can differ in their motivation and capacity largely depending on the size and diversity of the fleet. Typically, high-valued fisheries with complex regulations tend to be better organized and have identifiable leadership that can play a direct role in informing and/or overseeing management decisions. Organizations that have a formal legal structure can more readily offer more secure partnerships with agencies like the Department. Fishery organizations that do not have a legal structure have greater opportunities with being successful in long-term partnerships if they are designed and/or equipped to be durable, resilient, and flexible333333.

Change agents

Through their role as intermediaries, external change agents or “bridging organizations” can help empower fishermen, scientists, and Department staff to enhance their capabilities and available resources (Pomeroy et al. 2001). Change agents can provide resources and expertise in plan development, brainstorming, problem solving, information gathering and sharing, and participatory facilitation and communication. Change agents are often NGOs, academic and research institutions, or development agencies that rarely play a role in decision-making. Rather, they are objective and seek to expedite the partnership process by setting in place a process of discovery and social learning. External change agents’ connection with local communities, their ability to focus on community objectives, and linkages with donors and other supportive organizations are factors that favor their role.

Consistent funding

Partnerships take time to become established and can take years to evolve into a process that can support collaborative decision-making. Consistent funding sources for fishery organizations and agencies contribute to the success of partnerships, providing the security for both resource managers and fishermen to invest time and resources in establishing relationships, identifying common goals, implementing collaborative efforts, and evolving from lessons learned.

Typically, there is infrastructure established to support fisheries partnerships that evolve beyond initial start-up funds and grow to diversify their funding portfolio. Fundraising and project management skills, good financial judgment, and political savvy increase a partnership’s likelihood of long-term viability and success. For example, partnerships involving researchers and/or NGOs skilled in grant writing and aware of funding cycles can play important roles in the long-term sustainability of a partnership. Additionally, these entities may have mechanisms in place to receive funding from various sources (e.g., NGOs) and the Legislature has clearly recognized the need and value for alternative sources of revenue to fund the Department’s necessary marine conservation, restoration, resource management, and protection responsibilities (§710.7(c)). Roles and responsibilities of those charged with developing and implementing strategies to acquire partnership funding should be fully outlined to ensure everyone involved in the partnership is operating within the same expectations.

Information exchange

Generating and/or sharing information between partners can take many forms. Informal, one-on-one conversations between fishermen and resource managers can be used to address clarifying questions or to share information about what fishermen are experiencing on the water. Agency staff may use surveys to poll fisheries lacking in fisheries-independent data, and researchers may request fishermen help to interpret fisheries-dependent data.

Involving fishermen in the gathering, interpretation, and reporting of fisheries management data is considered a gateway or entry point to more comprehensive forms of collaborative management (Trimble and Berkes 2013). Fishermen involved in these projects typically see value in their participation in a collaborative research team and view their involvement as direct recognition by resource managers and academic scientists of the quality and importance fishermen’s input in shaping research questions and designing surveys (Pinkerton 2009). Involving fishermen from the “ground up” helps build trust in the scientific process, credibility in the results, and creates an atmosphere where fishermen play a role in championing the research project within their fisheries, ports, and communities (Pinkerton 2009). The exchange of ideas and information can be equally as valuable to Department staff involved in the partnership who gain local and experiential knowledge (Hovel et al. 2015).

Anticipated changes in regulations

Resource managers, agency staff, decision makers, and funders are increasingly interested in understanding the motivations for the continued participation and mobilization of fisheries partnerships. Anticipated changes in management regulations can act as a catalyst for activating or reenergizing fisheries partnerships. International experiences show that fisheries management regulations that are developed without the support of fishermen are less likely to succeed due to limited involvement, and therefore acceptance or agreement (Hanna 1995).

Establishing trust and developing social capital

Trust is an essential building block to successful fisheries partnerships and efficient fisheries management. Investment in relationship-building and establishing confidence across partnership participants should be considered and integrated. Solid and long-lasting relationships can also act as an incentive to maintain ongoing collaborative efforts. The core concept of social capital is “interactions among individuals” with the inherent goal to strengthen social interactions in and between groups concerned with a given issue.

Banner for the California Fishing Passport program. (CDFW photo)

Potential role of partnerships in management

Six fundamental management tasks that can benefit from fisheries partnerships and the degree of stakeholder capacity required to effectively partner on each are described in Table P1.

Table P1. Overview of the level of capacity needed for stakeholder groups to effectively partner with the Department to accomplish particular management tasks (adapted from Wilson et al. 2016). The three attributes (representativeness, funding, and longevity) reflect a prospective partner’s capacity.
Representativeness Funding Longevity
Prioritization of Fisheries Management Medium Low Low
Fishery Specific Planning High Medium Low
Research and Monitoring Low Medium Medium
Stock Assessment High High Medium
Decision Rules High Medium High
Compliance and Enforcement High High High
  • Representativeness is defined by whether the group represents the broader constituency through democratic or otherwise egalitarian means. If a low level of representativeness is required, it means that relatively few members of the fishery may participate effectively in a partnership. A high level of representativeness indicates that to successfully partner in a particular management task, a more representative constituency is needed.
  • Funding refers to the ability to raise funds for participatory processes. A small group of fishermen may score on the low end, whereas a marketing association (e.g., California Sea Urchin Commission) or NGO may score towards the higher end.
  • Longevity refers to the ability of the group to participate as a lasting partner without concern for erosion of duties and responsibilities over time. A small group of stakeholders may not be as durable as an academic institution for example.

Management Task 1: Prioritization of management efforts

As described in Chapter 2, the Department has many responsibilities and limited capacity. Prioritization approaches that incorporate the expertise and perspectives of stakeholders can help identify the fisheries in most urgent need of management attention. Stakeholder engagement, and structured partnerships with groups like OST, has and will continue to play key roles in setting priorities. Prioritization does not require an ongoing or durable partnership with the same entities, and partners only need minimal capacity to participate.

Management Task 2: Fishery-specific planning

Partnerships can facilitate the fishery management planning process in several ways, including by helping to provide or secure external funding and outside expertise. Additionally, stakeholders, and fishermen in particular, have vital roles to play in the assembly and interpretation of EFI, the development of practical and focused research protocols, and the identification of appropriate management strategies and control rules. The approach to incorporating additional stakeholder input will vary based on the dynamics of the fishery. For example, for the Pacific Herring FMP, the nature of the fishery allowed for a small, focused steering committee to work closely with the Department and have a high degree of involvement in process management and decision-making (Pacific Herring Discussion Group 2015). Other fisheries, such as California Halibut, are more complex in terms of user groups, gear types, and port perspectives and thus a different approach to engagement will be necessary. The benefits of partnerships in fishery-specific planning extend beyond the FMP model to non-FMP fishery-specific documents, such as the development of ESRs as described in Chapter 3.

The primary benefit of a partnership-based approach to planning is that it can attract the funding and provide the organization that allows for comprehensive management reform where it would otherwise not be possible. This can facilitate regulatory changes that enhance the biological and economic sustainability of the fishery. It can also focus limited research funding on the most instructive areas. Further, this partnership-based approach empowers individuals and promotes buy-in to the process and its results. To partner with the Department and help initiate and advance planning efforts, stakeholder groups need to be representative and have the capacity to help organize the effort, seek funding, and communicate with their constituents. Given the shorter-term, project-based nature of fishery planning, the durability of the stakeholder group is not as much of a priority issue as it is for longer-term efforts.

Management Task 3: Research and monitoring

CFR, where fishermen and the fishing industry are actively involved in the design and implementation of research and monitoring that support management, is key to helping the Department manage fisheries in a cost-effective way. CFR can help the Department in the following ways:

  • Expand the capacity to conduct research and fill information gaps that the Department currently does not have staff or expertise to do. Given that Department capacity and resources for research are not likely to increase in the near-term, external partnerships are a potential vehicle to achieve more.
  • Play a key role in conducting research, potentially enabling staff to focus more on an oversight and management role.
  • Lend credibility and trust to management approaches by avoiding “cloistered” approaches (either the Department doing science and making management decisions alone, or an academic doing research and bringing “the answer” to the agency).
  • Involve key stakeholders to ensure that the resulting management approach has more buy-in and is designed to achieve desired outcomes.

There is a distinction between the levels of capacity and durability required for ad-hoc research versus long-term monitoring. Generally, research is more short-term, and project-based. Stakeholder partners do not need to be representative of the fleet or have significant capacity beyond being able to reliably participate in the research. They also do not need to be particularly durable given the typically short-term nature of the work. By contrast, monitoring involves regular, consistent sampling over time to build a time series of data.

Partnerships require organizations that have sufficient capacity to engage over time and are sufficiently long-standing that the Department can be reasonably assured that efforts to incorporate the group into monitoring will be worthwhile and will not pose a threat to the stability and integrity of the monitoring effort. The organization does not need to be particularly representative as the perspectives of the broader fleet are not directly at issue.

Management Task 4: Stock assessments

In the face of limited resources for carrying out full stock assessments, alternative assessment approaches present an opportunity for increased stakeholder participation in data collection, determination of appropriate performance indicators and reference points, and selection of appropriate stock assessments. Partnerships can play a role in facilitating, developing, and carrying out both empirical and model-based stock assessment approaches for improved fisheries management. Partners can be leveraged to assist with stock assessments through a variety of avenues, several of which are described below.

Similar to the potential collaborations and partnerships described in Task 3 regarding research and monitoring, universities and other academic institutions can play an important role in supporting stock assessments. A strong out-of-state example is the University of Washington and NOAA’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, which funds graduate students to work on applied fishery management issues, in particular stock assessments primarily for federally-managed fisheries. Private research institutions, stakeholder working groups, and NGOs are also capable of fulfilling several duties associated with assessments. As described in Chapter 5, NGO and academic partners worked with the Department to apply data-moderate stock assessments to a suite of California fisheries and develop a California-specific DLM tool. A working group on data-limited fisheries, funded through the Science for Nature and People Partnership, developed a decision support system for choosing an appropriate management strategy for data-limited fisheries (Dowling et al. 2016).

The use of fishing industry funds to help hire independent contractors to fulfill stock assessment requirements is an approach that the Department has used before that is embraced by a number of national governments across the globe (Castilla and Fernández 1998). The California Sea Urchin Commission has funded independent research for many years to determine biological characteristics important to the long-term sustainability of the fishery (Ebert et al.1994). Such funding has also been leveraged to understand the biological and economic value of adjusting the minimum size limit in the fishery. In the Pacific Herring fishery, the San Francisco Bay Herring Research Association, an NGO formed with money from the Cosco-Busan spill, funded a stock assessment in partnership with herring fishermen.

To effectively engage in partnerships focused on assessments, stakeholders need a comparatively high degree of organization. Assessments are technical and even simplified approaches require sufficient funding to conduct. The use of industry funds to support assessments implies adequate representativeness to collect funding and sufficient structure and strategy to decide how those funds should be spent. Academic institutions typically have the capacity required to engage in assessment-based research and the technical abilities to help select and conduct assessments. Because assessment work is comparatively short-term and project-based, proven stakeholder group durability is potentially less of a concern.

Management Task 5: Harvest Control Rules

To achieve harvest sustainability, managers are charged with prescribing a system of decision rules that meet target objectives for fisheries management. The development of HCRs is arguably the single most important component of a management strategy. Development of decision rules that meet multiple objectives can be enhanced through active participation among managers, scientists, industry participants, and constituents (FAO 1995). Using static decision rules such as the prescription of aTAC set at a fraction of historical landings or an assumed unfished spawning stock biomass (Restrepoet al. 1998; Berkson 2011), often fail to meet the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders.

As discussed in Chapter 11, with climate change there is a need to develop adaptive decision rule frameworks that allow for rapid adjustments to management measureswithout the need for lengthy legislative or otherwise bureaucratic approaches to fishery management. Such processes need to be transparent, objective, and simple in order to be readily integrated into state fisheries management. Working with partners to help develop, test, and implement these systems is critical for helping prepare for an uncertain future that will require nimbleness and flexibility in decision-making.

Partners can participate in the development of decision rules in many ways, including via an MSE process as discussed in detail in Appendix L. MSE is a procedure that allows for the objective and explicit consideration of tradeoffs between alternative management strategies including the management measures and control rules that link assessment outcomes with the management response (Smith 1994). The use of MSE as a guide for selection and implementation of decision rules must be informed by partners since it is dependent on a number of assumptions about stakeholder objectives, ecological dynamics, and behavior of fishermen. MSE can streamline decision-making and can reduce the costs of management when appropriately designed.

There is a continuum of potential stakeholder involvement with the development and adjustment of HCRs. On the lower end, stakeholders do not need to be as well organized. The Department can solicit specific input from stakeholders without concerns regarding the durability of organizations or their capacity. This is a form of stakeholder engagement. On the other end, in more formal and structured approaches, stakeholders will need to be more organized and need greater capacity to engage in framework approaches described above. Given the potential for direct consequences, fishermen in MSE working groups need to be representative of the interests of the broader fleet. The durability of stakeholder organizations is of particular concern if structured adaptive management processes identify stakeholder organizations by name. However, as in the White Seabass FMP, adaptive management structures need not be dependent on particular organizations.

Management Task 6: Compliance and enforcement

Effective law enforcement, as well as consistent voluntary compliance with fishery management measures, is critical for protecting California’s marine resources and the fisheries and communities that depend on them. Given the state’s more than 1,100 miles of coastline and numerous existing fishery regulations, the Department faces some significant logistical, economic, and capacity challenges in achieving desired compliance and enforcement outcomes across the state.

The Department has already incorporated partnerships into its compliance and enforcement. In addition to partnering with managers and industry groups and providing specific fisheries-related training for allied enforcement agencies and tribal entities, the Department has:

  • Provided outreach and education to MPA Collaborative Network members on regulations pertaining to MPAs and what to do if they encounter a potential violation.
  • Provided support and specialized training for the Natural Resource Volunteer Program, whose members provide education and outreach regarding marine regulations in partnership with the Department.
  • Furthermore, CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) now has a dedicated mobile device application for ease of use in reporting violations.

Building off these successful existing partnerships and looking to models from around the country and the world, almost every aspect of a comprehensive compliance and enforcement strategy can be improved by expanded partnerships. However, due to the sensitive nature of enforcement activities, any partnerships must be formed with a great deal of consideration and forethought.

Engaging fishing leaders in the development of important regulations and management changes can improve outcomes, increase buy-in and awareness, and support high-levels of voluntary compliance as well as peer-to-peer education. Industry cooperatives, advisory committees, sport fishing groups, and other organizations can provide significant assistance in improving the awareness and understanding of existing and new relevant regulations by working directly with the Department to organize and host workshops and education sessions and distribute informational materials to members. These groups could also take on significant responsibilities in encouraging best practices among their members to support management and enforcement objectives.


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Photo at top of page: Retrieving the ROV Beagle off Santa Barbara. (CDFW photo)